The most common renal cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which arises from the renal parenchyma. The global incidence of RCC has increased over the past two decades by 2% per year. RCC is the most lethal of the common urological cancers: despite diagnostic advances, 20-30% of patients present with metastatic disease. A clearer understanding of the genetic basis of RCC has led to immune-based and targeted treatments for this chemoresistant cancer. Despite promising results in advanced disease, overall response rates and durable complete responses are rare. Surgery remains the main treatment modality, especially for organ-confined disease, with a selective role in advanced and metastatic disease. Smaller tumours are increasingly managed with biopsy, minimally invasive interventions and surveillance. The future promises multimodal, integrated and personalized care, with further understanding of the disease leading to new treatment options.