After more than two decades of rising rates, in recent years the total kidney cancer incidence worldwide has shown signs of stabilizing, or even decreasing. In adults, kidney cancer consists of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the predominant form, and renal transitional cell carcinoma (RTCC); these types primarily arise in the renal parenchyma and renal pelvis, respectively. Although temporal trends by kidney cancer type are not well established worldwide, incidence of RCC in the US has continued to rise, mainly for early-stage tumors, while that of RTCC has declined, and total kidney cancer mortality rates have leveled. Stabilization of kidney cancer mortality rates has also been reported in Europe. These trends are consistent with reports of increasing incidental diagnoses and a downward shift in tumor stage and size in clinical series. The changing prevalence of known risk factors for RCC, including cigarette smoking, obesity, and hypertension, is also likely to affect incidence trends, although their relative impact may differ between populations. Accumulating evidence suggests an etiologic role in RCC for physical activity, alcohol consumption, occupational exposure to trichloroethylene, and high parity among women, but further research is needed into the potential causal effects of these factors. Genetic factors and their interaction with environmental exposures are believed to influence risk of developing RCC, but a limited number of studies using candidate-gene approaches have not produced conclusive results. Large consortium efforts employing genome-wide scanning technology are underway, which hold promise for novel discoveries in renal carcinogenesis.