Genes, Genetics and Kidney Cancer

You have genes in every cell in your body. Genes are the instructions that control the way your cells develop, grow and work. Some genes promote cell growth and others slow cell growth. Cancer is caused by changes called mutations that cause damage to genes. Mutations that affect how these genes function can allow cells to grow out of control and play a part in cancer developing.

Gene mutations happen in one of two ways:


They can occur by chance (sporadic or non-hereditary)

The mutation that occurs in one or more genes happens by chance or is acquired sometime during our lifetime, because of errors that happen as cells divide or because they have been exposed to certain harmful substances that end up damaging the cell’s DNA. These changes only occur in certain cells and cannot be passed on from a parent to a child. This is the cause of most kidney cancers and these are not inherited.


They can be hereditary

Some clues that kidney cancer may be hereditary include:

  • Many tumours in one kidney.
  • Tumours in both kidneys.
  • A family of history of kidney cancer
  • being diagnosed with kidney cancer at a younger age than usual.

It is important to remember, that most kidney cancers occur by chance (are sporadic) and usually happen as a person gets older. Only about 3% to 8% of kidney cancers are hereditary.


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U.S. National Library of Medicine. Genetics Home Reference: Your Guide to Understanding Genetic Conditions. Help Me Understand Genetics. Published: 12/1/2016

Kidney Cancer Canada