Obesity fuels rising kidney cancer levels, say University scientists

Isabelle Bowen 7 April 2012

Research by Cambridge University scientists has revealed a rise in the number of kidney cancer cases, partly attributed to increasing obesity levels. According to figures released by Cancer Research UK, more than 9,000 people were diagnosed with the cancer in 2009 – a record high, compared with 3,000 in 1975.

Although smoking remains the biggest risk factor, growing obesity levels are believed to be driving the recent rise. Obesity increases the risk of contracting the cancer by 70%, due to higher levels of certain hormones in those who are overweight. 70% of UK men and 60% of UK women are now classed as overweight. New diagnostic techniques may also be responsible for the recent increase.

Professor Tim Eisen, a Cambridge University Cancer Research UK kidney cancer expert, said: “It is best to prevent the problem in the first place – maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking are the best ways of doing that. The other important point is to see your doctor if you have noticed blood in your urine as this can be an early sign of something wrong. If the kidney cancer is caught early, it can often be cured by surgery.”

Kidney cancer affects more men than women, and is rare in those under 40. Despite the rise, five-year survival for kidney cancer has increased by 85% since the early 1970s.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, added: “Obesity is not only linked to kidney cancer but six other types of cancer and other diseases as well. Kidney cancer survival rates have greatly improved over the last 35 years thanks to research funded by our generous supporters. To ensure we continue to make progress, it’s really important that the disease is diagnosed as early as possible to give patients the best treatment options.”

Isabelle Bowen