Kidney cancer

Our analysis of worldwide research on kidney cancer

As part of the Continuous Update Project (CUP) – our ongoing programme to analyse global research on how diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and survival – we have analysed worldwide research to produce our report on kidney cancer.

Published in September 2015, the report is the most rigorous, systematic, global analysis of the scientific research currently available on diet, weight, physical activity and kidney cancer, and which of these factors increase or decrease the risk of developing the disease.

For the report, the global scientific research on diet, nutrition, physical activity and kidney cancer was gathered and analysed by a research team at Imperial College London, and then independently assessed by a panel of leading international scientists.

The total number of adults in the 29 studies from around the world reviewed for the report was around 9.7 million; and the total number of kidney cancer cases in the studies analysed for the report was 15,039.

The report updates the kidney cancer section of our 2007 Second Expert Report.

Key Findings

Strong evidence

  • There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of kidney cancer. Being overweight or obese was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. This finding remains unchanged from our 2007 Second Expert Report.
  • There is strong evidence that being tall increases the risk of kidney cancer (developmental factors in the womb, and during childhood and adolescence, that influence growth are linked to an increased risk of kidney cancer). The taller a person is, the greater his or her risk of kidney cancer.
  • There is strong evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks decreases the risk of kidney cancer, when consuming up to 30 grams (about 2 drinks) a day. There is insufficient, specific evidence for higher levels of drinking - for example, 50 grams (about 3 drinks) or 70 grams (about 5 drinks) a day. It is also important to remember that there is strong evidence that alcohol is linked to an increased risk of five other cancers.

Changes since the last time we reviewed the worldwide evidence on the link between diet, nutrition, physical activity, weight and kidney cancer (for our 2007 Second Expert Report):

  • the finding on adult height has been upgraded to strong evidence.
  • the finding on alcohol is new.
  • the findings for being overweight or obese remain unchanged.


  1. To reduce the risk of developing kidney cancer, people should maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Follow our existing Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Our ten Cancer Prevention Recommendations are for preventing cancer in general and include maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet and limiting alcohol consumption (if consumed at all, alcoholic drinks should be limited to a maximum of 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women), as there is strong evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the breast, bowel, liver, oesophagealmouth and throat.

A more detailed overview of the findings is provided in the Executive Summary of the report.

Read our blog on why taller people are at greater risk of cancer.

Published findings in peer-reviewed journals

Selected findings from the kidney cancer CUP update have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The details of the paper and link to the abstract in PubMed are below:

WCRF-AICR continuous update project: Systematic literature review of prospective studies on circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D and kidney cancer risk. Darling AL, Abar L & Norat T. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015. Abstract