Kidney cancer rates have soared by 30 per cent since the early 2000s according to the latest figures published* by Cancer Research UK.
“Nothing could quite prepare me for the moment the doctor told me I had kidney cancer.” – Nicholas Owen, BBC journalist and television presenter
Over the last decade, the rates of people diagnosed have risen from 9 in every 100,000 to 12 people in every 100,000 now.
This means that cases hit 10,000 a year for the first time, up from around 6,900 a decade ago**.
All age groups have seen an increase, with the largest in those 80 and over. And experts believe obesity is one of the main reasons for this sharp increase. Smoking is also a risk factor.
But, more cases are also detected through new imaging methods, such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT), which can pick up cancers before patients have noticed any symptoms.
Kidney cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the UK. Each year 4,200 people die from the disease.
Professor Tim Eisen, Cancer Research UK clinician based at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said: “These figures show a worrying rise in kidney cancer in the last decade and emphasise how crucial more research into better treatments for kidney cancer is. To address the growing problem we’re running several trials to make sure these kidney cancer patients have the best possible treatment options.
“But as well as finding better treatments, more needs to be done to catch this cancer as early as possible. Half of the patients we see are diagnosed incidentally when they have come in for other health problems. The best possible chance of survival comes from being aware of the potential symptoms, such as blood in the urine, and getting this checked out by your GP.”
Nilesh Jhala, a 50 year old sales representative from Luton, started noticing a cough in September of 2010 that wasn’t clearing. He went to see a GP and was diagnosed with kidney cancer in March 2011.
“That cough was a blessing. It prompted the checkups that found the cancer. I’d also had night sweats and noticed my urine was darker, but had not thought for one minute that they were signs of cancer.
“A CT scan found a cyst on my kidney that must have been there for about four to five years – and the doctors might have missed it if it wasn’t for the persistent cough. Three weeks later I had my kidney removed.
“Since then I have been on a three year Cancer Research UK sponsored trial to see if a drug, taken after surgery, can help to stop or delay kidney cancer coming back. Today I am feeling great and am very positive about the future for myself and my family.”
Nicholas Owen, BBC journalist and television presenter, said: “Nothing could quite prepare me for the moment the doctor told me I had kidney cancer. I had felt fit and healthy, but a grumbling gut caused me to get checked out by the doctor who gave me a scan just in case. The ultrasound revealed a two cm tumour on my kidney.
“Thankfully it was caught early, and surgery was able to remove my cancer. But I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to go to the doctor when you feel something is wrong, especially if you find blood in your urine. Research developed the scanner that found my cancer and perfect the surgery I had. It’s thanks to research that I am still alive today.”
Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical trials, said: “This increase in kidney cancers highlights how important it is to tackle this disease. We must continue to encourage people to be aware of the risk factors and to quit smoking in particular. Cancer Research UK is funding a range of trials to develop new treatments and improve existing ones for the disease.”
For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
** European age-standardised incidence rates in persons in the UK increased from 9.2 in 2000-2002 to 12.2 in 2009-2011.
New cases of kidney cancer in the UK increased from 6,888 in 2002 to 10,144 in 2011.