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Kidney cancer - Preventing kidney cancer

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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As the causes of kidney cancer are not fully understood, it is not possible to completely prevent it.

However, a healthy lifestyle may reduce the chances of developing the condition.

Read about the causes of kidney cancer.

A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise will help you to avoid becoming overweight or obese, which is a significant risk factor for kidney cancer.

If you are overweight or obese, you can lose weight and maintain a healthy weight by combining regular exercise and a calorie-controlled diet.

Read more about treating obesity.


It is recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, cycling or fast walking) every week. The exercise should be strenuous enough to leave your heart beating faster and you should feel slightly out of breath afterwards.

Examples of activities that you could incorporate into your exercise programme include:

  • brisk walking
  • hill climbing
  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming

If you find it difficult to do 150 minutes of exercise a week, start at a level you feel comfortable with.

You could try the Couch to 5K challenge, which is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.

However, you should visit your GP for a health check-up if you have never exercised before or you are returning to exercise after a long lay-off.

Read more about how to exercise.


A low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes whole grains and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) is recommended for a healthy heart. Limit the amount of salt in your diet to no more than 6g (0.2oz or 1 teaspoon) a day. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure.

Avoid eating foods high in saturated fat because this will increase your cholesterol level. These include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee - a type of clarified butter often used in Indian cooking
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil

There is some evidence that eating a diet that has a lot of oily fish may help to reduce the risk of kidney cancer. Examples of oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • herring
  • mackerel

Oily fish also contain vitamin D, which can reduce the risk of some cancers. You can also get vitamin D by exposing your skin to the sun or by taking supplements.

Read more about diet tips or healthy eating.

Quitting smoking

If you smoke, giving up is the most effective way of preventing kidney cancer, as well as a number of other serious health conditions, such as a stroke, heart attack and lung cancer.

If you want to give up smoking, your GP can help you by providing information and advice, and prescribing medication. The NHS Smokefree website also has useful information and advice about giving up smoking or you can call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline on 0800 022 4332 (England only).

Read more about quitting smoking.


There is evidence to suggest that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, such as four to five glasses of wine a month, will help to reduce your risk of developing kidney cancer. The reasons for this are not fully understood.

However, you should not exceed the recommended daily amounts for alcohol because drinking an excessive amount will place you at risk of developing liver disease, liver cancer, and high blood pressure.

The recommended daily levels of alcohol consumption are between three to four units of alcohol for men, and between two to three units for women. A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

Read more about drinking and alcohol.

Medical Review: August 14, 2012
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