Renal Cancer & Asbestos

Every year, thousands of people in the United States are diagnosed with renal cancer. Renal cancer is a cancer of the cell lining (epithelial cells) of the kidney. Renal cancer is the most common form of kidney cancer and makes up about 85 percent of all kidney tumors.

Several conditions may lead to the development of cancer cells in the kidneys: researchers have discovered several factors that may increase a person's risk of developing the disease. Risk factors for renal cancer may include age, gender, race, cigarette smoke, diet, and exposure to hazardous chemicals such as asbestos.

Asbestos and Renal Cancer Links

Some studies have found a link between renal cancer and asbestos exposure. A German study done in 2000 reviewed the histories of 935 renal cell cancer patients diagnosed between 1991 and 1995 for occupational exposures, smoking and lifestyle characteristics. The study showed that long periods of exposure in the chemical, rubber and printing industries were associated with increased risk for this disease. Exposure to a number of toxins correlated with increased risk; among those toxins were benzene, mineral oils, cutting fluids and asbestos.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs responsible for filtering the blood, expelling waste, and producing urine. Renal cancer typically forms in the lining of the kidney, which cleans the blood. If asbestos fibers are ingested, they may become permanently embedded in vital organs potentially causing serious harm, as they do in the lungs. Workers in asbestos manufacturing or producing industries including those in the steel, shipbuilding, insulation, roofing, and flooring industries are at the greatest risk of developing renal cancer.

A 1989 study conducted by a University of California/Berkeley researcher concluded that there was evidence for a causal link between kidney cancer and asbestos based on three studies: one of a cohort of insulation workers, one of employees with an asbestos products manufacturer, and one of Italian shipyard workers. All showed elevated levels of renal cell cancer compared to the population at large.

Symptoms of Renal Cancer

There are a number of symptoms of renal cancer; these are among the common ones:

  • Lower back and side pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Lump in abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe, unexplained weight loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Swelling

Additional symptoms may occur if the disease has metastasized to other organs such as the liver, lung, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, or the other kidney. There will be approximately 58,000 new cases of kidney cancer in the U.S. in 2010, and over 13,000 deaths.


  1. Occupational Risk Factors for Renal Cell Carcinoma, International Journal for Epidemiology, Pesch et al, 2000,
  2. Asbestos and Kidney Cancer, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Smith et al, 1989, PubMed,
  3. Kidney Cancer, National Cancer Institute,

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