In Australia, kidney cancer is one of the ten most common cancer diagnoses.

It is estimated that about 3300 people received a diagnosis of kidney cancer in 2014. Between 1982 and 2007, incidence of kidney cancer almost doubled, from 6.2 to 12 new cases per 100,000, while mortality from kidney cancer changed very little, remaining largely constant at about 4 deaths per 100,000.

The increase in diagnosed kidney cancer may be due to the ageing of the population, better diagnostic methods, or increased rate of coincidental diagnosis during scans for other reasons.

Australians have a 1 in 69 risk of developing kidney cancer before the age of 85 (1 in 51 for males and 1 in 103 for females). Males are currently twice as likely to develop kidney cancer as females.

Kidney cancer is mostly a disease seen in adults aged over 55, and is rare in children.

Types

Renal cell carcinomas account for around 85 per cent of kidney cancers. These cancers begin to grow in the lining of one or both kidneys.

Clear cell carcinoma is the most common form of renal cell carcinoma, accounting for about 80 per cent of kidney cancers. When viewed under a microscope the individual cells that make up clear cell carcinoma appear very pale or clear.

Papillary cell (chromophobic) carcinoma is the second most common type; about 10 to 15 per cent of people with kidney cancer have this form. These cancers form little finger-like projections (called papillae).

Chromophobic carcinoma is the third most common form of renal carcinoma, accounting for about 5 per cent of cases. Like clear cell carcinoma, the cells of these cancers are also pale, but are much larger and have certain other distinctive features.

Other rare types of kidney cancer include collecting duct carcinoma, renal medullary carcinoma, renal translocation carcinoma, mucinous tubular and spindle-cell carcinoma and unclassified renal cell carcinomas. These rare forms together make up the remaining 5 to 10 per cent of renal cell carcinomas.

Survival

Worldwide, more than 100,000 people die of kidney cancer each year.

In 2009, kidney cancer caused 927 deaths in Australia (575 men and 352 women), accounting for 2 per cent of all cancer deaths, and for 0.6 per cent of all causes of deaths.

Survival from kidney cancer has increased greatly over time. The five-year survival rate has risen from 47 per cent in the period 1982 to 1987 to 72 per cent in 2006 to 2010.

The five-year survival rate is similar for males and females overall, although females aged 50 to 59 (five-year survival of 83 per cent) had a slight survival advantage over males of the same age (76 per cent).

Improved outcomes are due largely to increases in the detection and survival of early-stage renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer.

Sources of data

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010. ACIM (Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality) Book (2010). AIHW Canberra

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2012. Cancer in Australia: in brief 2012. Cancer series no. 74. Cat. no. CAN 70. AIHW Canberra

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Cancer in Australia: in brief 2012. Cancer series no. 73. Cat. no. CAN 69. AIHW Canberra

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Cancer survival and prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982 to 2010. Cancer Series no. 69 Cat. no. CAN 65. AIHW Canberra

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Cancer incidence projections: Australia, 2011 to 2020. Cancer Series no. 66. Cat. No. CAN 62. AIHW Canberra

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