Uncovered: Kidney Cancer Myths

Kidney cancer mostly affects younger people.

Kidney cancer mostly affects younger people.

MYTH: While some cancers do disproportionally affect younger people – kidney cancer is not one of them. Most people who do get kidney cancer are older, with the average age of diagnosis being 64; it is rare for people younger than 45 to be diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer is rare.

Kidney cancer is rare.

MYTH: Kidney cancer is actually one of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. So how common is it? Overall, the lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer is about 1 in 63 or 1.6%.

Smoking only raises risk of lung and oral cancer.

Smoking only raises risk of lung and oral cancer.

MYTH: While it might seem to make sense that smoking only impacts lung and oral cancer, given that cigarette smoke is passed through the mouth into the lungs – smoking actually impacts far more than those parts of the body. In fact – smoking actually doubles the risk of developing kidney cancer – and is believed to cause about 30% of kidney cancers in men and about 25% in women.

Women are at higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

Women are at higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

MYTH: While there are some cancers for which women are at higher risk, kidney cancer is not one of them. Renal cell carcinoma is actually about twice as common in men as in women. Why? Men have historically been more likely to be smokers, and to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals at work, which may account for much of the difference.

Blood in urine is a certain indication of kidney cancer.

Blood in urine is a certain indication of kidney cancer.

MYTH: Blood-colored or burgundy urine can be a symptom of kidney cancer – but it can also be a sign of noncancerous conditions as well – like a urinary tract infection (UTI). While red-colored urine should never be ignored – and needs prompt medical attention – don’t think it means cancer.

Your kidneys are fine if you have no obvious discomfort like difficulty urinating.

Your kidneys are fine if you have no obvious discomfort like difficulty urinating.

MYTH: Lack of external symptoms does not mean that a person does not have kidney disease. Why? Because kidney conditions typically do not present any symptoms until they have progressed to an advanced stage. If you do have symptoms – be sure to consult a doctor or healthcare provider.

The only type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma.

The only type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma.

MYTH: While the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, there are a number of other, less common types of kidney cancer, such as: Wilms’ kidney tumor that often affects children; and transitional cell carcinoma, which but begins in the kidneys, and can impact the ureters.

There are no preventive measures that an at-risk person can take to prevent kidney disease.

There are no preventive measures that an at-risk person can take to prevent kidney disease.

MYTH: There are a number of at-risk groups for kidney disease, which include: those with diabetes, high blood pressure, over 60 years of age, and people of Latino, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, and African American ethnicities. So the key important point – being in at-risk group does not mean you will develop kidney disease. So what can you do to help prevent kidney disease? Follow a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, not smoking (or quitting if you do), controlling high blood pressure and blood sugar if elevated, and regularly exercising.

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