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Kidney cancer (renal cell)

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for up to 90% of cases of the disease. In renal cell carcinoma, malignant cells are believed to arise from the tubules of the kidney.

The primary function of the kidney is to filter waste from our blood. About 50 gallons of blood enter our kidneys every day. They also process approximately two quarts of extra water. The wastes that are filtered, and the extra water, turn into urine. The urine then travels down tubes, called ureters and is stored in the bladder until excretion (urination).

Causes and Risk Factors of Renal Cell Carcinoma

We have yet to identify causes of renal cell carcinoma, but researchers have identified several known risk factors for the disease. A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood that we may develop kidney cancer. Renal cell carcinoma risk factors include:

• being male

• being over 50

• being on dialysis

• Von Hippel-Lindau disease

• smoking

• family or personal history of kidney cancer or bladder cancer

• long-term abuse of over-the-counter analgesics

Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Unfortunately, renal cell carcinoma symptoms usually do not appear until the disease has progressed. In fact, it is usually detected "accidentally" when another symptom or condition is being investigated.

Symptoms of renal cell carcinoma include:

• Blood in the urine, either seen after urination or microscopically

• Abdominal mass

• Pain felt on the side or lower back

• Unintentional weight loss

• Fatigue

Prevention of Kidney Cancer

While there are no proven kidney cancer prevention methods, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk of kidney cancer.

Quit Smoking or Don’t Start. Smoking is a strong risk factor for renal cell carcinoma. As soon as you quit (it’s never too late!), your body reaps the benefits of being tobacco free. Quitting smoking is the best defense against lung cancer.

Know What You are Being Exposed to in the Workplace. If you are exposed to fumes, dust and chemicals in the workplace, you have a right to know what you are being exposed to. Gasoline, diesel exhaust, arsenic, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas and chloromethyl ethers are all carcinogens and can be found in some work environments. Talk to your employer about limiting your exposure.

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