Do Kidney Stones Increase the Risk of Kidney Cancer?
The kidneys, located in the mid-upper abdomen (around the back) are our bodies’ main filtration system, eliminating excess waste products, salt and water. Beyond this filtration, the kidneys also play a role in blood pressure and red blood cell regulation. The kidneys create urine, which is pass through the ureters, to the bladder and then eventually out of the body. As such, the kidneys are an incredibly important part of our overall function. Kidney diseases that require the removal of a kidney are not a death sentence, however. Our bodies can function normally on one kidney and even those who do not have working kidneys can survive with an external filtration process, known as dialysis.
Although kidney cancer is one of the top 10 most common cancers in the United States, the number of new cases diagnosed each year (about 65,000) is less than 1/3 the number of breast cancer, prostate cancer, or lung cancer diagnoses. Much like other cancers, early detection is critical for treatment and survivability. However, even advanced forms of kidney cancer are being treated more effectively than ever before.
On the other hand, kidney stones are extremely common, but do they increase the risk of kidney cancer? A relatively new study published in 20181 sought to find out just that. The result was that yes, kidney stones can in fact increase the risk of certain kidney cancers. Further, the risk is increased depending on when kidney stones first occur. Some of the key takeaways of the study include:
- Kidney stones increase the risk of papillary renal cell carcinoma significantly. This is not the case for clear cell renal cell carcinoma
- It was also found that kidney stones increased the risk of upper tract urothelial carcinoma
- Patients who were diagnosed with kidney stones at or below the age of 40 had an increased risk of kidney cancer versus those who received their diagnosis later in life
Reducing the risk of kidney stones to reduce the risk of cancer
As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and when it comes to renal cancer, this is also true. To address the topic of this article, eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying well hydrated can reduce the likelihood of kidney stones. But we also must address the other risks of kidney cancer. These can include genetic issues that simply cannot be prevented, however, certain medications, smoking, obesity, and long-term hepatitis C can all increase the risk of renal cancer. Modifying your diet and lifestyle to address these risk factors can significantly reduce the risk of cancer.
Ultimately, having a highly experienced urologist like Dr. Jason Engel by your side can go a long way toward addressing many of the risk factors of kidney cancer, while also having a resource to turn to for diagnosis and treatment. You can learn more about kidney conditions as well as treatment options on our website and you can always schedule a consultation with Dr. Engel to address any concerns you may have.
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1 van de Pol, J.A.A., van den Brandt, P.A. & Schouten, L.J. Kidney stones and the risk of renal cell carcinoma and upper tract urothelial carcinoma: the Netherlands Cohort Study. Br J Cancer 120, 368–374 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41416-018-0356-7