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Incidence of Kidney Cancer in the UK

The definition of kidney cancer includes cancers of the renal parenchyma (90%), the renal pelvis (5%) and the ureter (5%). Cancers of the renal parenchyma are also known as renal cell carcinomas (RCC). There are eight subgroups of RCCs;

  • Conventional or clear cell RCC – this can also be called non-papillary RCC and accounts for 75% of RCC cases
  • Papillary or chromophilic RCC accounts for 10-15% of RCC cases
  • Chromophobe RCC accounts for about 5% of cases
  • Collecting duct carcinoma
  • Renal medullary carcinoma
  • Mucinous tubular and spindle-cell carcinoma
  • Renal translocation carcinoma
  • Unclassified renal cell carcinoma, the latter five of which together make up the remaining 5-10% of RCC tumours.

Kidney cancer accounts for 4% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in men, and just over 2% of all cancers in women in the UK (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

Kidney cancer is therefore a relatively rare cancer; however, some reports have indicated an increasing incidence globally, including the UK. This increase is due in part to the wider application of diagnostic imaging techniques, leading to the incidental detection of asymptomatic kidney tumours. Changes in lifestyles have increased certain risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, which may have also contributed to the increase in incidence.

Incidence of kidney cancer by age and sex

In 2015, kidney cancer was the 7th most common cancer in adults in the UK, there were around 12,547 new cases of kidney cancer in the UK in 2015, that’s around 34 cases diagnosed every day. There were 4,619 kidney cancer deaths in the UK in 2014- 2016, that’s around 12 deaths every day; this accounts for about 3% of all cancer deaths in the UK.

In UK men, it is the sixth most common cancer, with 7,900 cases diagnosed in 2015, and in UK women it ranked tenth most common cancer, with around 4,600 cases diagnosed in 2015.

It has been estimated that the lifetime risk of developing kidney cancer is 1 in 52 men and 1 in 87 women will be diagnosed with kidney cancer during their lifetime (Cancer Research UK).

The number of new cases and rates for kidney cancer in the UK and its constituent countries in 2015 are shown in Table 1. The crude incidence rate (the number of kidney cancer cases divided by the population and multiplied by 100,000) shows that there are about 20 new kidney cancer cases for every 100,000 males per year in the UK, and 12 cases for every 100,000 females per year. The crude incidence rate doesn’t take into account the age of the population, and since cancer generally affects older people, the crude incidence rate is greatly affected by the proportion of older people in the population. The European age-standardised rates are adjusted to take into account the number of old or young people in the population. European age-standardised rates do not differ significantly between UK countries for either sex.

Table 1: Kidney Cancer (C64-C66,C68), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2015


1 Directly age-standardised rate (ASR) per 100,000 using European standard populations

Kidney cancer is rare in young adults and children, but rates begin to rise after the age of 40. About three quarters of people diagnosed with kidney cancer (75%) are over 60 years old and the highest rates are in the 70-74 age range for men and 75-79 age range for women. More than a third of cases (36%) were diagnosed in people aged over 75 years between 2013 and 2015.

Kidney cancer rarely affects children, and about 45-50 paediatric cases are diagnosed in the UK each year. About 75% of childhood kidney cancer occurs in the under-fives. The most common paediatric kidney cancer is Wilm’s tumour. Others include hereditary kidney cancer syndromes, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease (see Childhood Kidney Cancer fact sheet for more information).

Figure 1 shows the incidence of kidney cancer by age-group, UK, 2013-2015 (Figure courtesy of Cancer Research UK)


Geographic variations in the incidence of kidney cancer

The incidence of kidney cancer varies between different regions of the UK and Ireland for both men and women. In Scotland, parts of Wales, the south west and the north of England, the age-standardised rates for women are higher than the UK average, while the incidence in London, the South East and East Midlands are below average. This distribution of kidney cancer follows the geographic pattern of two known risk factors for kidney cancer, namely smoking and obesity.

Table 2 presents the geographic spread of the incidence of newly-diagnosed kidney cancer for males and females in England [1]. The data are presented by region of England for the year 2011. Age standardised rates per 100,000 people using the European standard populations and mortality:incidence ratios are also presented. The mortality:incidence ratio gives an indication of the number of people who died from kidney cancer in 2011, the higher the ratio, the greater the number of people who died from kidney cancer.

Table 2: Incidence of newly diagnosed kidney cancer and mortality for males and females by region of England, 2011[1]

    Males     Females  
Country/Region Incidence ASR1 Mortality: Incidence Ratio Incidence ASR1 Mortality: Incidence Ratio
 England 4405 14.0 0.44 2736 7.5 0.45
North East 245 15.1 0.41 177 9.2 0.40
North West 554 13.0 0.50 398 8.1 0.48
Yorkshire and The Humber 507 15.9 0.41 329 8.7 0.37
East Midlands 391 13.8 0.46 201 6.4 0.53
West Midlands 486 14.3 0.46 310 8.0 0.57
East 523 14.1 0.41 315 7.3 0.42
London 429 12.0 0.40 260 6.2 0.46
South East 729 13.7 0.47 420 6.8 0.41
South West 541 15.0 0.42 326 8.2 0.40

1 Directly age-standardised rate (ASR) per 100,000 using European standard populations

Trends in the incidence of kidney cancer

For males, kidney cancer AS incidence rates in the UK increased by 76% between 1993-1995 and 2013-2015. For females, kidney cancer AS incidence rates in the UK increased by 91% between 1993-1995 and 2013-2015.

Over the last decade in the UK (between 2003-2005 and 2013-2015), kidney cancer AS incidence rates for males and females combined increased by 47%. In males AS incidence rates increased by 44%, and in females rates increased by 47%.

Kidney cancer European age-standardised (AS) Open a glossary item incidence rates for males and females combined increased by 85% in the UK between 1993-1995 and 2013-2015.[1-4] The increase was of a similar size in males and females.

Figure 2 European age-standardised incidence rates, Great Britain, 1993-2015 (Figure courtesy of Cancer Research UK)

The increasing incidence of kidney cancer by age groups for both men and women in Great Britain between 1993 and 2015 can be seen in Figure 3. Kidney cancer incidence rates have increased overall in all broad age groups in males and females combined in the UK since the early 1990s.[1-4] Rates in 0-24s have increased by 28%, in 25-49s have increased by 84%, in 50-59s have increased by 60%, in 60-69s have increased by 63%, in 70-79s have increased by 93%, and in 80+s have increased by 140%..

Figure 3 European age-standardised incidence rates by age, Great Britain 1993-2015 (Figure courtesy of Cancer Research UK)


In Europe, more than 115,000 new cases of kidney cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed in 2012. The UK incidence rate is 19th lowest in Europe for males and 17th highest for females.

Worldwide, around 338,000 people were diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2012, with incidence rates varying across the world.

*All source data Cancer Research UK,, Accessed July 2018