Renal Cancer

What you do, what you eat, and how you handle stress impact your overall state of well-being.

Renal cancer makes up 3.8% of all new cancer cases with an estimated death rate in 2014 of 13, 860.

Approximately 1.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with kidney and renal pelvis cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2008-2010 data.[1]

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer (90-95%) which usually starts in one kidney and rarely occurs in both kidneys at the same time.[2]

When the cancer has not spread (metastasized) beyond the kidney, the 5 year survival rate is 60-70%.[3]

Avoid high glycemic foods (and sugar) and the also the risk of developing diabetes. However even without diabetes the ingestion of high sugar can lead to kidney damage.[4]

Causes/Contributing Factors

Risk factors associated with renal cancer are primarily related to lifestyle factors such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes.  In fact, the combination of smoking, obesity and hypertension have been estimated at causing at least 50% of renal cancers.[5]

Among the most well-established risk factors include:

  1. Cigarette smoking has been established as the most common factor behind developing renal cancer.  Additionally, individuals with renal cancer who are current smokers have lower rates of survival.[6]
  2. Obesity and high blood pressure.[7] Visceral obesity correlated with a higher rate of having recurrent renal cell carcinoma.[8]
  3. Having diabetes mellitus, types 1 and 2.[9]

Exposure to asbestos, cadmium and trichloroethylene, found in occupational dusts, also increase the risk of developing renal cancer.[10][11]

Women who have undergone a hysterectomy have at least double the risk of developing renal cancer in their lifetimes compared to those who have not had the surgery.[12]

Alcohol is known to compromise liver function and as a result this can exacerbate kidney disease.[13] Long term alcohol consumption is also known to directly affect kidney cells.[14]

Relevant Diagnostic Testing

Renal cancer is often asymptomatic for years until it becomes advanced. However the physical symptoms that most commonly occur initially include: blood in the urine (occurring in 40% of affected persons at the time they first seek medical attention for the symptom), flank pain (40%), a mass in the abdomen (25%), weight loss (33%), fevers (20%), high blood pressure (20%), night sweats and a feeling that something is  ‘not right’ or fatigue.[15]

Renal cancer is also associated with a number of paraneoplastic syndromes (PNS), which are conditions caused by either the hormones produced by the tumor or by the body’s immune response to the tumor and are present in about ¼ of individuals with renal cell carcinoma.[16] These syndromes most commonly affect tissues which have not been invaded by the cancer. The most common PNSs seen in people with RCC are: anemia, high blood calcium, polycythaemia (the opposite of anemia, an overproduction of erythropoietin), and other blood abnormalities.

Stay in a healthy weight range. Obesity is a known contributing factor to development of chronic kidney disease as well as a factor in worsening the prognosis of those with renal cancer.[17] This risk appears higher in obese women than in men in some studies.[18]

Dietary Action Plan


  1. Brightly colored, fresh vegetables, leafy greens and fresh fruits (choose organic if possible), broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, as well onions and garlic and berries that are high in antioxidants.
  2. Whole foods (foods that are as close to their natural form as possible).
  3. Research has shown coconut oils have been shown to protect kidney cells.[19]
  4. Low sugar/low glycemic diet (Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are measures of the effect on blood glucose level after a food containing carbohydrates is consumed) due to the link between diabetes and renal cancer.
  5. Managing potassium if it’s needed, but not using too much, keeping phosphates low (as found in some meats, processed foods and sodas) and keeping salt in regulation are also important factors in the dietary plan for kidney disease.[20][21]
  6. High fiber, from whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits
  7. For animal protein, choose lean poultry and fish over red meat, and aim to view meat as a condiment rather than a staple. Try to choose grass fed and organic meats and eggs whenever possible.


  1. Salty food that can contribute to hypertension.
  2. Processed and grilled meats. Also, try to limit intake of red meat. Managing excess proteins in the diet may also be critical for chronic kidney disease.[22]
  3. Fast foods, fried foods, baked goods and packaged, processed foods.
  4. Sugar, sweeteners and artificial sweeteners that can worsen diabetes.
  5. Vegetable oils, shortening, margarine and anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
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Renal Cancer Supplement Program

Multiple nutritional supplements have been associated with reduced cancer incidence and/or cancer progression. The list below contains those with the greatest evidence-base and benefit, though it is not necessary that they all be included.

Supplement Info



  • Astragalus
  • Ligustrum Lucidum
  • Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
  • Milk Thistle
  • Licorice Root
  • Berberine
  • Vitamin D3
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[1] Sanfilippo KM, McTigue KM, Fidler CJ, Neaton JD, Chang Y, Fried LF, Liu S, Kuller LH. Hypertension and obesity and the risk of kidney cancer in 2 large cohorts of US men and women. Hypertension. 2014 May;63(5):934-41. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02953. Epub 2014 Mar 17.

[2] Curti, B; Jana, BRP; Javeed, M; Makhoul, I; Sachdeva, K; Hu, W; Perry, M; Talavera, F (26 February 2014). “Renal Cell Carcinoma”. In Harris, JE. Medscape Reference. WebMD. Retrieved 7 March 2014.

[3] Smith TR, Lall RR, Lall RR, Abecassis IJ, Arnaout OM, Marymont MH, Swanson KR, Chandler JP. Survival after surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery for patients with multiple intracranial metastases: results of a single-center retrospective study. J Neurosurg. 2014 May 23:1-7

[4] Bilton R. Averting comfortable lifestyle crises. Sci Prog. 2013;96(Pt 4):319-68.

[5] Häggström C, Rapp K, Stocks T, Manjer J, Bjørge T, Ulmer H, Engeland A, Almqvist M, Concin H, Selmer R, Ljungberg B, Tretli S, Nagel G, Hallmans G, Jonsson H, Stattin P. Metabolic factors associated with risk of renal cell carcinoma. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57475. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057475. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

[6] Xu Y, Qi Y, Zhang J, Lu Y, Song J, Dong B, Kong W, Xue W, Huang Y. The impact  of smoking on survival in renal cell carcinoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tumour Biol. 2014 Jul;35(7):6633-40. doi: 10.1007/s13277-014-1862-8. Epub 2014 Apr 4.

[7] King SC, Pollack LA, Li J, King JB, Master VA. Continued Increase in Incidence of Renal Cell Carcinoma, Especially in Young Patients and High Grade Disease: United States 2001 to 2010. J Urol. 2014 Jan 11.

[8] Park YH, Lee JK, Kim KM, Kook HR, Lee H, Kim KB, Lee S, Byun SS, Lee SE. Visceral Obesity in Predicting Oncologic Outcomes of Localized Renal Cell Carcinoma. J Urol. 2014 Apr 1.

[9] Psutka SP, Stewart SB, Boorjian SA, Lohse CM, Tollefson MK, Cheville JC, Leibovich BC, Thompson RH. Diabetes Mellitus is Independently Associated with an  Increased Risk of Mortality Among Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma Patients. J Urol. 2014 Jun 12.

[10] Lewis G, Maxwell AP. Early diagnosis improves survival in kidney cancer. Practitioner. 2012 Feb;256(1748):13-6, 2.

[11] Karami S, Boffetta P, Stewart PS, Brennan P, Zaridze D, Matveev V, Janout V, Kollarova H, Bencko V, Navratilova M, Szeszenia-Dabrowska N, Mates D, Gromiec J,  Slamova A, Chow WH, Rothman N, Moore LE. Occupational exposure to dusts and risk  of renal cell carcinoma. Br J Cancer. 2011 May 24;104(11):1797-803.

[12] Zucchetto A, Talamini R, Dal Maso L, Negri E, Polesel J, Ramazzotti V, Montella M, Canzonieri V, Serraino D, La Vecchia C, Franceschi S. Reproductive, menstrual, and other hormone-related factors and risk of renal cell cancer. Int J Cancer. 2008 Nov 1;123(9):2213-6.

[13] Ishigami T, Yamamoto R, Nagasawa Y, Isaka Y, Rakugi H, Iseki K, Yamagata K, Tsuruya K, Yoshida H, Fujimoto S, Asahi K, Kurahashi I, Ohashi Y, Moriyama T, Watanabe T. An association between serum γ-glutamyltransferase and proteinuria in drinkers and non-drinkers: a Japanese nationwide cross-sectional survey. Clin Exp Nephrol. 2014 Feb 4.

[14] Latchoumycandane C, Nagy LE, McIntyre TM. Chronic ethanol ingestion induces oxidative kidney injury through taurine-inhibitable inflammation. Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 Jan 8.

[15] Curti, B; Jana, BRP; Javeed, M; Makhoul, I; Sachdeva, K; Hu, W; Perry, M; Talavera, F (26 February 2014). “Renal Cell Carcinoma”. In Harris, JE. Medscape Reference. WebMD. Retrieved 7 March 2014.

[16] Bacchetta J, Juillard L, Cochat P, Droz JP. Paraneoplastic glomerular diseases and malignancies. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2009 Apr;70(1):39-58. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2008.08.003. Epub 2008 Sep 14.

[17] Stengel B, Tarver-Carr ME, Powe NR, Eberhardt MS, Brancati FL. Lifestyle factors, obesity and the risk of chronic kidney disease. Epidemiology. 2003 Jul;14(4):479-87.

[18] Odagiri K, Mizuta I, Yamamoto M, Miyazaki Y, Watanabe H, Uehara A. Waist to height ratio is an independent predictor for the incidence of chronic kidney disease. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 12;9(2):e88873. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088873. eCollection 2014.

[19] Monserrat AJ, Romero M, Lago N, Aristi C. Protective effect of coconut oil on renal necrosis occurring in rats fed a methyl-deficient diet. Ren Fail. 1995 Sep;17(5):525-37.

[20] Carrero JJ, Cozzolino M. Nutritional Therapy, Phosphate Control and Renal Protection. Nephron Clin Pract. 2014 Jan 11;126(1):1-7.

[21] Shutto Y, Shimada M, Kitajima M, Yamabe H, Saitoh Y, Saitoh H, Razzaque MS. Inadequate awareness among chronic kidney disease patients regarding food and drinks containing artificially added phosphate. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 13;8(11):e78660.

[22] Ash S, Campbell KL, Bogard J, Millichamp A. Nutrition prescription to achieve  positive outcomes in chronic kidney disease: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2014 Jan 22;6(1):416-51.

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