The value of classic and modern prognostic factors in renal cell carcinoma as reported in the literature is determined in a review. Tumor stage is the most important single independent prognostic factor. The presence or absence of distant metastases is highly prognostic and presence of lymph node metastases is of higher prognostic value than the presence of renal vein invasion. For each given tumor stage tumor grade (especially nuclear grade) is the most reliable additional independent prognostic factor predicting patient survival. The significance of DNA cytometry as an independent prognostic factor is less clear, though it might be useful in combination with nuclear grading. Patient-related potential prognostic factors such as age, sex and serologic parameters are of lesser, if any, importance. In the future, data from molecular analysis on oncogenes and suppressor genes are likely to provide additional prognostic information.