Introduction

Kidney cancer is the eighth most common cancer in adults in the UK, with just over 10,100 people diagnosed each year.

Signs and symptoms of kidney cancer can include:

  • blood in your urine 
  • a constant pain in your side, just below the ribs
  • a lump or swelling in the kidney area (on either side of the body)

See your GP as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms. They will examine you and may refer you to a specialist clinic for further tests.

In around half of all cases of kidney cancer there are no symptoms, and the condition is detected during tests for other unrelated conditions.

Read more about the symptoms of kidney cancer and diagnosing kidney cancer.

The kidneys and cancer

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the body, just underneath the ribcage.

Their main role is to filter out waste products from the blood, in addition to producing urine. Only one of the kidneys is usually affected by cancer.

The human body is made up of billions of cells, which normally grow and multiply in an orderly way, with new cells being created only when and where they're needed. In cancer, this orderly process goes wrong and cells begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably.

Exactly what triggers this growth is unknown; however, there are certain risk factors that can increase the chances of the condition developing, such as smoking and obesity.

Kidney cancer most frequently affects people over 50 years of age and is more common among men.

Read more about the causes of kidney cancer.

Types of kidney cancer

Many different types of cancer can affect the kidneys. The most common type is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which accounts for more than 80% of all kidney cancers.

Rarer types of kidney cancer include:

  • transitional cell cancer – develops in the lining of the kidneys and usually affects men who are 50 years of age or over
  • Wilms’ tumour – a rare type of kidney cancer that affects children

This topic focuses on RCC. See the Cancer Research UK website for more information about transitional cell cancer and Wilms’ tumour.

Treating kidney cancer

The earlier kidney cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

How it's treated will depend on the size and spread of the cancer. Surgery to remove the cancerous cells is usually the first course of action.

Unlike most other cancers, chemotherapy isn't very effective at treating kidney cancer. However, non-surgical treatments are available, such as radiotherapy or targeted therapies. These are most commonly used in the more advanced stages of kidney cancer, when the cancer has spread beyond the kidney.

Read more about treating kidney cancer.

Preventing kidney cancer

As the causes of kidney cancer aren't fully understood, it's not possible to fully prevent it.

However, leading a healthy lifestyle may reduce the chances of developing the condition. A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise will help to avoid becoming overweight or obese, which is a significant risk factor for kidney cancer.

If you're overweight or obese, you can lose weight and maintain a healthy weight by combining regular exercise with a calorie-controlled diet.

Read more about treating obesity.

Outlook

The outlook for kidney cancer is usually good if the condition is diagnosed in its early stages, when the cancer is still contained inside the kidney.

Kidney cancer can often be completely cured by removing some or all of the kidney. This is because it's possible to live a healthy life with only one kidney. Around one in three cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed at an early stage.

Depending on how aggressive the cancer is, 65-90% of people will live at least five years after receiving an early diagnosis of kidney cancer, with many people living much longer.

The outlook for kidney cancer that's spread outside the kidney is less favourable. Around 40-70% of people with this stage of kidney cancer will live at least five years after receiving a diagnosis.

In cases where kidney cancer is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body, only around 10% of people will live for at least five years after receiving a diagnosis.

Symptoms

Most cases of kidney cancer don't cause any symptoms in the early stages.

The most common symptoms of mid- to advanced-stage kidney cancer are:

  • blood in your urine (haematuria) – the amount of blood is usually high enough to change the colour of your urine to a reddish or dark brown colour
  • a persistent pain in your side, just below the ribs
  • a lump or swelling in the area of your kidneys (on either side of the body)

However, in around half of all cases the cancer causes no symptoms and is only detected during a routine ultrasound scan.

Less common symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue) or anaemia
  • unintentional weight loss
  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • night sweats 
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • swelling of the veins in the testicles (in men)
  • loss of appetite
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)

When to seek medical advice

See your GP immediately if you have pain or a swelling or lump in your kidney area (on either side of your body, just below your ribcage).

You should also see your GP if you have blood in your urine. Although it's highly unlikely to be caused by kidney cancer, it could be a symptom of a less serious condition that still requires treatment, such as a kidney stone or bladder stone.

Causes and risk factors

The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, but there are risk factors that can increase the chances of developing the condition.

The three main risk factors for kidney cancer are:

  • obesity
  • smoking
  • family history and genetics

Obesity

Obesity is a significant risk factor for kidney cancer.

A study carried out by Cancer Research UK in 2011 found that around a quarter of  kidney cancer cases are associated with being overweight or obese (25% of cases in men and 22% in women).

There's a strong link between someone’s body mass index (BMI) and their risk of developing kidney cancer. Read more about how BMI is calculated, and work out your BMI. 

A BMI score of 25 or above has been shown to increase a person's chances of developing kidney cancer. Those with a a BMI score of 30 or above are at particularly high risk.

This may be because overweight or obese people, particularly women, have higher levels of a hormone called oestrogen in their body. It's thought that excess levels of oestrogen may stimulate the growth of cancerous cells.

Cases of kidney cancer have been increasing over the last 40 years, which has been linked to rising obesity levels.

Smoking

Smoking is also a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer, and the more you smoke the greater the risk.

For example, research has shown that if you regularly smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you're one-and-a-half times more likely to develop kidney cancer compared to a non-smoker. This increases to twice as likely if you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day.

It's not clear why smoking increases your chances of developing kidney cancer.

Family history and genetics

If you have a close family member (parents, brothers, sisters or a child) who's been diagnosed with kidney cancer, you're about twice as likely to develop kidney cancer yourself.

Examples of inherited genetic conditions and syndromes that increase your risk of developing kidney cancer include:

  • tuberous sclerosis – a rare genetic condition that causes multiple non-cancerous (benign) tumours to grow in the body; it’s autosomal dominant, which means you only have to inherit the faulty gene from one parent to get it; about one in every 100 people with tuberous sclerosis will develop kidney cancer
  • hereditary papillary kidney cancer – a rare form of cancer caused by faulty genes inherited from your parents; it’s autosomal dominant and causes small, slow-growing, cancerous tumours to develop in the kidneys, which can sometimes spread
  • hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC) – a rare, autosomal dominant form of cancer, where cancerous tumours develop from smooth muscle tissue (leiomyomatas); people with HLRCC have a 10-16% increased risk of developing kidney cancer
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome – a rare genetic syndrome that causes small non-cancerous tumours to develop inside the nervous system; VHL is also autosomal dominant and about 4 out of 10 people who have it develop kidney cancer
  • Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome – an inherited syndrome that causes non-cancerous tumours to develop in the hair follicles of the skin; they usually occur on the face, neck and torso

Other possible risk factors

There are also a number of other possible risk factors for developing kidney cancer, including:

  • mild painkillers – some mild painkillers have been linked to an increased risk of developing kidney cancer; NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may slightly increase the risk, although occasional use or low doses are unlikely to be harmful
  • kidney disease – if you have kidney failure and need to have regular dialysis (treatment to replicate the functions of the kidneys), your risk of developing kidney cysts and kidney cancer is increased
  • high blood pressure (hypertension) – high blood pressure is a known risk factor for kidney disease, and you're up to twice as likely to develop kidney cancer if you have raised blood pressure

Diagnosis

In many cases, kidney cancer is diagnosed after routine scans and check-ups, as the condition doesn't always have obvious symptoms.

Seeing your GP

You should see a GP if you have any symptoms of kidney cancer, such as blood in your urine or a constant pain below your ribs.

Your GP will examine you and, if they think your symptoms need further assessment, refer you to a specialist urologist (a doctor who specialises in conditions that affect the urinary tract).

If you notice blood in your urine, your GP will usually carry out a blood test and take a urine sample. The results will help rule out other possible causes, such as infection or kidney stones.

In 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines to help GPs recognise the signs and symptoms of renal (kidney) cancer and refer people for the right tests faster. To find out if you should be referred for further tests for suspected kidney cancer, read the NICE 2015 guidelines on Suspected Cancer: Recognition and Referral.

If you need to be referred urgently, you'll usually be seen within two weeks.

Further tests

If your GP refers you to a hospital specialist, further tests will help determine whether you have kidney cancer.

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of an organ in the body. It can often detect changes in the shape of the kidney that might be caused by a cancerous tumour.

An ultrasound scan may be needed if the cause of the blood in your urine can't be found.

Computerised tomography scan

You may also be referred for a computerised tomography (CT) scan. During a CT scan, a series of detailed images of the inside of your body are taken and put together by a computer.

If you have a CT scan, you may be given a special dye to drink, or it may be injected. The dye makes the results of the CT scan clearer.

Image-guided biopsy

In some cases of kidney cancer, an image-guided biopsy is carried out. It's a minor surgical procedure performed under local anaesthetic. This means you'll be awake during the procedure, but the area surrounding the affected kidney will be numbed, so that you don't feel anything.

During an image-guided biopsy, a radiologist or surgeon will use an ultrasound or CT scan to guide a needle through your skin and into your kidney. A small tissue sample will be removed from your kidney and examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

You may also need to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which can be used to produce detailed images of your kidneys. The images can help identify a tumour and determine its size.

Cystoscopy

A cystoscopy is medical procedure that uses an instrument called a cystoscope to examine the inside of your bladder and urinary system.

This procedure doesn't look at the kidneys, but it can rule out or confirm whether any bleeding is coming from problems in the bladder.

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) test involves injecting a dye into your bloodstream. X-rays are taken after a short time, with the dye highlighting any growths present in the kidneys.

Staging and grading

If kidney cancer is confirmed, it's usually possible to determine its grade and stage.

The stage describes how far the cancer has spread, and the grade describes how aggressive the cancer is and how quickly it's likely to spread.

Both the stage and grade of your kidney cancer will help determine your recommended treatment and the likelihood of achieving a cure.

Healthcare professionals use the TNM system to stage kidney cancer:

  • T – indicates how large the tumour has grown (a tumour is a lump of cancerous tissue)
  • N – indicates whether nearby lymph nodes are affected (lymph nodes are small, oval-shaped glands found throughout the body, which help protect against infection)
  • M – indicates whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body (M stands for metastases, which is the medical term for cancer that has spread)

The stages of tumour size are:

  • T1a – where the tumour is less than 4cm (about 1.6 inches) in diameter
  • T1b – where the tumour is 4-7cm (about 1.6-2.8 inches) in diameter
  • T2 – where the tumour is larger than 7cm (2.8 inches) in diameter, but hasn't spread out of the kidney
  • T3a – where the tumour has spread into the adrenal gland or the layer of fat surrounding the kidney
  • T3b – where the tumour has spread into the renal vein (the vein that carries blood back from the kidney to the heart) or into the vena cava (the vein that carries blood back from the top half of the body)
  • T3c – where the tumour has spread past the diaphragm (the sheet of muscle that separates the top part of the abdomen from the bottom part)
  • T4 – where the tumour has spread beyond the tough layer of tissue that surrounds and protects the kidney

There are three lymph node stages:

  • N0 – where no lymph nodes have been affected
  • N1 – where there are cancer cells in one lymph node
  • N2 – where there are cancer cells in two or more lymph nodes

M0 means that the cancer hasn't spread to another part of the body. M1 means that the cancer has spread.

Kidney cancer is graded using a scale of one to four. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the cancer.

Coping with cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer can be very distressing, particularly if it's incurable. The news can often be difficult to take in and comprehend.

After cancer has been diagnosed, you may find that talking to a counsellor or psychiatrist helps you deal with feelings of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants may also be used to help you through this process.

Read more about coping with a cancer diagnosis. More information can be found on our pages about living with cancer.

Treatment

The treatment of kidney cancer depends on the size and spread of the cancer. Surgery is the most common first course of action, with the aim of removing the cancer cells.

Unlike most other cancers, chemotherapy isn't very effective in treating kidney cancer. However, there are non-surgical treatments available, such as radiotherapy or targeted drug therapies.

The main treatments for kidney cancer are covered in detail below and include:

Your treatment plan

You can expect to be cared for by a multidisciplinary team, often comprising a specialist cancer surgeon, an oncologist (who specialises in radiotherapy and chemotherapy), a radiologist, a nephrologist (a kidney specialist) and a specialist nurse.

You'll be given a key worker, usually the specialist nurse, who will be responsible for coordinating your care.

Your team will recommend what they think is the best treatment option, but the final decision will be yours.

When deciding what treatment is best for you, your doctors will consider:

If the cancer hasn't spread out of your kidney (T1 or T2 kidney cancer), it can usually be cured by removing some or all of the kidney.

If the cancer has spread out of your kidney (T3 or T4 kidney cancer), a complete cure may not be possible. However, it should be possible to slow the cancer's progression and treat any symptoms.

Surgical treatments

Nephrectomy

A nephrectomy is an operation to remove a kidney.

If the tumour is less than 4cm (1.5 inches) in diameter, it may only be necessary to remove some of your kidney. This is known as a partial nephrectomy. A partial nephrectomy may also be required if your remaining kidney is in poor health.

If the tumour is more than 4cm in diameter, your entire kidney will need to be removed. Even if the cancer has spread beyond your kidney, you may still benefit from having your kidney removed.

Removing the kidney can help resolve the pain, and make other types of non-surgical treatment more effective.

It's possible to live a normal life with only one kidney, because the other kidney will be able to compensate.

During a nephrectomy, the surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes to make sure the cancer hasn't spread beyond the kidney.

There are two ways that both a partial and open nephrectomy can be performed They are an:

  • open nephrectomy – where the kidney is removed through a large incision in your abdomen (stomach)
  • laparoscopic or keyhole nephrectomy – where a series of smaller incisions are made in your abdomen, and the kidney is removed using small surgical instruments

Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages.

A laparoscopic nephrectomy has a considerably quicker recovery time than an open nephrectomy.

However, the procedure requires surgeons with specialised training, so you may have to wait longer to receive treatment than you would if you decided to have an open nephrectomy.

Some types of kidney cancer, where the tumour is located in the centre of the kidney, may not be suitable for a laparoscopic nephrectomy.

One of the main disadvantages of an open nephrectomy is that it's a major surgical procedure that can place a considerable strain on the body. This means it may not be suitable for people who are particularly frail or unwell.

You should discuss the pros and cons of both procedures with your surgical team.

Want to know more?

Embolisation

If you're unable to have a nephrectomy, you may benefit from an alternative operation known as embolisation.

During embolisation, the surgeon will insert a small tube called a catheter into your groin, then use X-ray images to guide the catheter into the blood supply of your kidney. A substance will then be injected through the catheter to block the blood supply to your kidney.

By blocking blood supply to the kidney, any tumours that are present will become starved of oxygen and nutrients, causing them to shrink.

Non-surgical treatments for advanced kidney cancer

Kidney cancer is one of the few types of cancer that's less responsive to chemotherapy (where powerful medication is used to kill cancerous cells).

However, a number of clinical trials are under way that are looking at new combinations of chemotherapy medications that appear to be benefiting some people.

There are also a number of different non-surgical treatments that can slow the spread of the cancer and help control its symptoms.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can't usually cure kidney cancer, but it can slow down its progress and help reduce pain. You should only need a few minutes of radiotherapy every day, for a number of days.

When radiotherapy is used to control the symptoms of cancer rather than cure it, the side effects tend to be mild. Possible side effects may include fatigue (tiredness), nausea and vomiting

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves killing cancer cells by freezing them. It may be used if a person isn't fit enough for surgery, or if their tumour is small.

Cryotherapy is usually classed as either percutaneous (where needles are passed through the skin) or laparoscopic (where needles are placed directly into the kidney through a small incision).

Side effects include bleeding around the kidney and injury to the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (the ureter).

Want to know more?

Radiofrequency ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses heat generated by radio waves to kill cancer cells. This is a percutaneous treatment, meaning no incision is needed.

This treatment is only available at specialist centres. It's mainly used if you're not strong enough for surgery or your kidney cancer is in the early stages.

RFA can't be used if the cancer is too close to other organs, such as the bowel.

Side effects include bleeding in the treatment area, a collection of blood (haematoma) near the kidney, and problems passing urine due to the narrowing of the tube that joins the kidney to the bladder (the ureter).

Want to know more?

Targeted therapies

A number of new medicines have been developed for the treatment of kidney cancer. These are:

  • sunitinib 
  • pazopanib
  • axitinib
  • sorafenib
  • temsirolimus
  • everolimus
  • bevacizumab

These medicines are sometimes referred to as "targeted therapies" because they're designed to target and interrupt the functions needed by cancer to grow and spread.

At present, only sunitinib, pazopanib and axitinib have been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). They're available on the NHS for people who are still relatively healthy and have advanced kidney cancer, or kidney cancer that's spread to other parts of their body.

Sorafenib, temsirolimus, everolimus and bevacizumab aren't currently recommended by NICE.

Sunitinib

Sunitinib is the most commonly prescribed treatment for kidney cancer. It’s a type of medication known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Tyrosine kinase is an enzyme (protein) that helps cancer cells to grow. Sunitinib works by blocking protein kinase, stopping cancer from growing.

Sunitinib is taken as a capsule with or without food. You take it once a day for four weeks before having a two-week break. This six-week cycle is repeated for as long as the treatment is effective.

It’s very important that you take sunitinib in the exact dosage that’s been prescribed for you. Never stop taking medication for cancer without first consulting your specialist.

Common side effects of sunitinib include:

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about sunitinib and its side effects.

Want to know more?

Pazopanib

Like sunitinib, pazopanib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that can be used to slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells in the kidneys. It also prevents cancer cells developing blood vessels, which they need to grow.

Pazopanib is taken as a tablet once a day with a glass of water. You should take it about the same time each day, either at least an hour before eating or two hours afterwards. It’s important that you take it in the exact dosage that your specialist has prescribed for you.

Common side effects of pazopanib include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhoea 
  • high blood pressure
  • hair discolouration
  • abnormal liver function 

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about pazopanib and its side effects.

Want to know more?

Axitinib

Axitinib may be recommended for treating advanced kidney cancer if sunitinib and/or pazopanib have stopped working or haven’t been effective.

Like sunitinib and pazopanib, axitinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks tyrosine kinase and stops cancer growing.

Axitinib is taken as a tablet with a glass of water twice a day, about 12 hours apart. Your specialist may start you on a low dose which, depending on how you feel, may be increased after two weeks. It’s very important that you take the exact dose that’s been prescribed for you.

Common side effects of axitinib include:

  • diarrhoea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • a decrease in thyroid hormone level (hypothyroidism)
  • headaches
  • weight loss
  • loss of fertility

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about axitinib and its side effects.

Sorafenib

Sorafenib is another tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks the protein, tyrosine kinase, which encourages cancer cells to grow. It also prevents cancer cells developing blood vessels which they need to grow.

Sorafenib is taken as tablet twice a day (at the same time each day) with a glass of water. It can also be taken with a meal, but make sure the food is low-fat, because high-fat foods make it less effective.

Again, it’s very important that you take sorafenib as instructed by your doctor at the exact dosage prescribed for you.

Common side effects of sorafenib include:

  • diarrhoea
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • hair thinning (in around one in four people)
  • increased risk of bleeding – such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums
  • loss of fertility
  • flushed skin

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about sorafenib and its side effects.

Temsirolimus

Temsirolimus is sometimes used to treat advanced kidney cancer. It’s a type of medication known as an mTOR inhibitor, which blocks a protein called mTOR, that’s usually active in cancer cells, making them reproduce and multiply. Temsirolimus also prevents blood vessels developing, which cancer cells need to grow.

Temsirolimus is a liquid that’s delivered directly into the bloodstream, either through a tube that’s put into a vein in your arm (catheter), or a tube into a large vein in your chest (a central line). The treatment takes 30-60 minutes and you have it once a week in hospital. Before each dose, an antihistamine is usually given to prevent an allergic reaction.

Common side effects of temsirolimus include:

  • red, dry, itchy skin
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lack of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • a sore mouth or mouth ulcers
  • sleeping problems
  • loss of fertility

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about temsirolimus and its side effects.

Everolimus

Everolimus is a medication for advanced kidney cancer that’s returned during or following treatment. It stops some of the signals produced within cells that make them grow and divide. Everolimus prevents the mTOR protein working properly, which plays an important role in the growth of cancer cells.

Everolimus is taken as a tablet once a day at the same time each day. It should be swallowed whole with a glass of water, rather than being chewed or crushed. It can be taken with or without food. It’s very important that everolimus is taken using the exact dosage and method prescribed.

Common side effects of everolimus include:

  • a sore mouth
  • tiredness
  • a rash or itchy, dry skin
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • a lack of periods in women (this may be temporary)
  • loss of fertility

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about everolimus and its side effects.

Immunotherapy

As well as medications that prevent, disrupt and slow down the growth and development of kidney cancer (kinase and mTOR inhibitors), there are also treatments that work by encouraging the immune system to attack cancer cells. This type of treatment is known as immunotherapy.

Bevacizumab is a medication that’s given intravenously (into a vein, through a drip). It blocks a protein called endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which helps cancer to grow. Bevacizumab is usually used in combination with an immunotherapy treatment called interferon. Interferon is taken as an injection just under the skin (subcutaneously), three times a week. It encourages your immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells.

Another medication called aldesleukin is sometimes used to treat kidney cancer that’s spread. It’s similar to a natural protein the body produces called interleukin-2 (IL-2), which is part of the immune system. IL-2 activates lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), which fight illnesses and infections.

Aldesleukin works in a number of ways. It interferes with how cancer cells grow and multiply, it stimulates the immune system into attacking cancer cells, and it makes cancer cells send out chemicals that attract immune system cells. Like interferon, aldesleukin is usually given as a subcutaneous injection.

Immunotherapy treatments are now rarely used to treat advanced kidney cancer. This is because targeted therapies tend to be more effective in controlling the condition, and immunotherapy can sometimes cause serious side effects.

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about treatments for advanced kidney cancer. You can also read more about new treatments that are currently being developed and tested in clinical trials in their section about kidney cancer research (external link).

Prevention

As the causes of kidney cancer aren't fully understood, it's not possible to completely prevent it.

However, leading a healthy lifestyle may help reduce your chances of developing the condition.

Read about the causes of kidney cancer.

Combining a healthy diet and regular exercise will help you avoid becoming overweight or obese, which are both significant risk factors for kidney cancer.

If you're overweight or obese, you can lose weight and maintain a healthy weight by combining regular physical activity with a calorie-controlled diet.

Read more about healthy weight loss and treating obesity.

Diet

A low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes whole grains and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) is recommended for a healthy heart.

You should also limit the amount of salt in your diet to no more than 6g (0.2oz or 1 teaspoon) a day. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure.

Avoid eating foods high in saturated fat because it will increase your cholesterol level. High-fat foods include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee – a type of clarified butter often used in Indian cooking
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil

There's some evidence that eating a diet that has plenty of oily fish (at least one portion a week) may help reduce the risk of kidney cancer. Examples of oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • trout
  • herring

Oily fish also contains vitamin D, which can reduce the risk of some cancers. You can also get vitamin D from sunlight or by taking supplements.

Exercise

It's recommended that adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, every week.

The exercise should be strenuous enough to increase your heart rate and you should feel slightly out of breath afterwards.

Examples of activities you could incorporate into your exercise programme include:

If you find it difficult to do 150 minutes of exercise a week, start at a level you feel comfortable with.

However, you should visit your GP for a health check if you've never exercised before or you're returning to exercise after a long period of time.

Read more about exercise and its benefits.

Giving up smoking

If you smoke, giving up is the most effective way of preventing kidney cancer, as well as a number of other serious health conditions, such as strokeheart attack and lung cancer.

Your GP can help if you want to stop smoking, by giving you information and advice, and prescribing medication.

Our stopping smoking pages have useful information and advice about giving up smoking. Alternatively, you can call Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84.

Read more about giving up smoking.

Alcohol

There's evidence to suggest that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, such as 4-5 glasses of wine a month, will help reduce your risk of developing kidney cancer. The reasons for this aren't fully understood.

However, you shouldn't exceed the recommended limits for alcohol, because excessive drinking will place you at risk of developing liver disease, liver cancer, and high blood pressure (hypertension).

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits. A small (125ml) glass of wine contains 1.5 units of alcohol.

Read more about drinking and alcohol and alcohol units.