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What is Renal Adenocarcinoma?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Renal adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in the kidneys. Between 90 and 95 percent of kidney cancers are of this kind; the remaining five to 10 percent are either lymphomas or are metastases of cancers that developed elsewhere in the body. Renal adenocarcinoma is known by several other names, including renal cell adenocarcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, renal carcinoma, renal cancer and kidney cancer.

Approximately three percent of all adult cancers are renal adenocarcinoma, with more than 100,000 deaths occurring worldwide each year because of this malignancy. This type of cancer occurs with greater frequency in people of Northern European and North American descent than in people of Asian or African descent, and it also is more frequent in men than in women. Most people diagnosed with renal cancer are between 40 and 70 years old. When the disease develops in a younger person, it usually is because he or she has inherited one or more genes that increase the risk of the cancer occurring.

The main symptoms of renal cancer are flank pain, the development of a lump in the flank and the appearance of hematuria, or blood in the urine. The flank is an area located on the back of the body, between the hips and the ribs. Generally, flank pain is felt on only one side of the body. Other symptoms of this cancer might include unintentional, unexplained weight loss, constipation, unusually pale skin and vision disturbances.

Many people with renal adenocarcinoma are diagnosed late in the course of the disease, and often, the cancer has significantly advanced before diagnosis is made. Less than 10 percent of people will experience the three classic symptoms of flank pain, flank mass and hematuria. In as much as 30 percent of cases, diagnosis is made only after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

One of the main risk factors for renal cancer is cigarette smoking, which is estimated to double the risk of developing this type of cancer. Other risk factors include obesity, hypertension, prolonged use of the analgesic medication phenacetin and a genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumor formation in multiple locations. People with an inherited condition called von Hippel-Lindau disease are also at increased risk of renal cancer. This type of inherited renal adenocarcinoma develops in approximately 40 percent of people with von Hippel-Lindau disease.

The standard treatments for renal cancer are surgery to remove the kidney, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Other possible treatments include immunotherapy and hormone therapy. Treatment efficacy for renal cancer is much higher for people who are diagnosed early. Just 11 percent of people with metastasized kidney cancer survive longer than five years post-diagnosis, compared to 64 to 66 percent of people with small, non-metastasized tumors.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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