Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer graphicFind out more about kidney cancer, including how common it is and ways to reduce your risk.

How common is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the UK. In 2019, 12,050 cases of kidney cancer were diagnosed.* Kidney cancer is the 9th most common cancer type in women and the 7th most common type of cancer in men.

What is kidney cancer?

Most people have two kidneys. They’re found on either side of your body just below the ribcage. Kidneys remove waste products from your blood and produce urine.

Kidney cancer usually affects only one kidney, but in rare cases it can develop in both kidneys.

There are several types of kidney cancer. The most common type is renal cell carcinoma, accounting for 80 per cent of kidney cancer cases.

Who is most at risk of kidney cancer?

There are many different reasons why kidney cancer develops, and this varies from person to person.

Lifestyle risk factors

> Smoking

> Being overweight or obese

Other risk factors

  • Age – people 55 and over are at a higher risk
  • Gender – men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer than women

How can you reduce your risk of kidney cancer?

The good news is that you can make diet and lifestyle choices that can lower your risk of kidney cancer.

These steps are based on research from our Global Cancer Update Programme (CUP Global).

1. Be a healthy weight

Strong evidence shows that being overweight or obese is a cause of kidney cancer. Use our body mass index calculator to find out if you are a healthy weight for your height and visit our weight and cancer prevention page for tips to keep your weight healthy.

2. Don’t smoke

If you do smoke, stopping smoking will reduce your risk. The NHS stop smoking service can help you quit.

Alcohol and kidney cancer

There is strong evidence that consuming up to two alcoholic drinks a day lowers the risk of developing kidney cancer. However, alcohol increases the risk of six common cancers and other diseases.

Scientists think that alcohol can directly damage DNA, increasing our risk of cancer. That’s why we advise not drinking alcohol at all. If you choose to drink, have no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least three days. Visit our alcohol and cancer prevention page to learn more.

> Visit NHS Choices to find out about the symptoms and treatments of kidney cancer 

*Cancer statistics based on combined data from EnglandScotlandNorthern Ireland and Wales. World Cancer Research Fund, 2022.