A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors. Others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing kidney cancer include:
- genetic (inherited) conditions, including von Hippel–Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma renal cell carcinoma, Birt–Hogg–Dubé syndrome, familial renal cancer, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex  and hereditary renal oncocytoma (the kidney tumours in people with this condition are usually benign)
- family history of kidney cancer – that is, someone in the family has had kidney cancer but without one of the genetic conditions listed above
- high blood pressure
- exposure to certain chemicals, including cadmium, some herbicides and some organic solvents (especially trichloroethylene).
- misuse of certain types of pain medicines over a long period
- advanced kidney disease, especially where this requires the use of dialysis (a procedure that uses a machine outside the body to perform the blood-cleaning functions of the kidneys)
- being male – renal cell cancer is about twice as common in men as in women
- certain medicines – some studies suggest that acetaminophen, a common pain medicine, may be linked to increased risk of renal cell cancer. 
Healthy lifestyle and risk reduction
- Lifestyle and risk reduction
- Position Statement on Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer
- American Cancer Society (2021). Kidney cancer http://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidneycancer/detailedguide/index.
- National Cancer Institute (2020). Renal cell cancer treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/renalcell/Patient, patient version.
- American Cancer Society, Kidney cancer
- National Cancer Institute (US), Renal cell cancer treatment (PDQ®), patient version
- Australian Cancer Trials