Epidemiology of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Eur Urol. 2019 Jan;75(1):74-84. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2018.08.036. Epub 2018 Sep 19.


Context: Despite the improvement in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) diagnosis and management observed during the last 2 decades, RCC remains one of the most lethal urological malignancies. With the expansion of routine imaging for many disorders, an increasing number of patients who harbour RCC are identified incidentally.

Objective: To summarise and compare RCC incidence and mortality rates, analyse the magnitude of risk factors, and interpret these epidemiological observations in the context of screening and disease management.

Evidence acquisition: The primary objective of the current review was to retrieve and describe worldwide RCC incidence/mortality rates. Secondly, a narrative literature review about the magnitude of the known risk factors was performed. Finally, data retrieved from the first two steps were elaborated to define the clinical implications for RCC screening.

Evidence synthesis: RCC incidence and mortality significantly differ among individual countries and world regions. Potential RCC risk factors include behavioural and environmental factors, comorbidities, and analgesics. Smoking, obesity, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease represent established risk factors. Other factors have been associated with an increased RCC risk, although selection biases may be present and controversial results have been reported.

Conclusions: Incidence of RCC varies worldwide. Within the several RCC risk factors identified, smoking, obesity, and hypertension are most strongly associated with RCC. In individuals at a higher risk of RCC, the cost effectiveness of a screening programme needs to be assessed on a country-specific level due to geographic heterogeneity in incidence and mortality rates, costs, and management implications. Owing to the low rates of RCC, implementation of accurate biomarkers appears to be mandatory.

Patient summary: The probability of harbouring kidney cancer is higher in developed countries and among smokers, obese individuals, and individuals with hypertension.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Incidence; Kidney cancer; Mortality; Prevalence; Renal cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / epidemiology*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors