Cancer incidence among US Medicare ESRD patients receiving hemodialysis, 1996-2009

Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 May;65(5):763-72. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2014.12.013. Epub 2015 Feb 7.


Background: Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) receiving dialysis have been reported to have increased risk of cancer. However, contemporary cancer burden estimates in this population are sparse and do not account for the high competing risk of death characteristic of dialysis patients.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting & participants: US adult patients enrolled in Medicare's ESRD program who received in-center hemodialysis.

Factors: Demographic/clinical characteristics.

Outcomes: For overall and site-specific cancers identified using claims-based definitions, we calculated annual incidence rates (1996-2009). We estimated 5-year cumulative incidence since dialysis therapy initiation using competing-risk methods.

Results: We observed a constant rate of incident cancers for all sites combined, from 3,923 to 3,860 cases per 100,000 person-years (annual percentage change, 0.1; 95% CI, -0.4 to 0.6). Rates for some common site-specific cancers increased (ie, kidney/renal pelvis) and decreased (ie, colon/rectum, lung/bronchus, pancreas, and other sites). Of 482,510 incident hemodialysis patients, cancer was diagnosed in 37,128 within 5 years after dialysis therapy initiation. The 5-year cumulative incidence of any cancer was 9.48% (95% CI, 9.39%-9.57%) and was higher for certain subgroups: older age, males, nonwhites, non-Hispanics, nondiabetes primary ESRD cause, recent dialysis therapy initiation, and history of transplantation evaluation. Among blacks and whites, we observed 35,767 cases compared with 25,194 expected cases if the study population had experienced rates observed in the US general population (standardized incidence ratio [SIR], 1.42; 95% CI, 1.41-1.43). Risk was most elevated for cancers of the kidney/renal pelvis (SIR, 4.03; 95% CI, 3.88-4.19) and bladder (SIR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.51-1.64).

Limitations: Claims-based cancer definitions have not been validated in the ESRD population. Information for cancer risk factors was not available in our data source.

Conclusions: These results suggest a high burden of cancer in the dialysis population compared to the US general population, with varying patterns of cancer incidence in subgroups.

Keywords: Hemodialysis; US Renal Data System (USRDS); cancer incidence; cancer risk factor; carcinoma; chronic kidney failure; claims-based cancer definition; diagnostic code; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); malignancy; tumor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Young Adult