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With Chronic Kidney Disease Comes Cancer Risk
 Kidney Disease Center Feature Story

With Chronic Kidney Disease Comes Cancer Risk
Likelihood rises with age and severity of renal problems

With Chronic Kidney Disease Comes Cancer Risk(HealthDay News) -- Chronic kidney disease appears to make some cancers more likely.

"We've known for many years that people with end-stage kidney disease have an increased risk for malignancy in general, and renal cancer in particular," Dr. Matthew Weir, director of the division of nephrology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told HealthDay.

Because of this, people with chronic kidney disease "need cancer screening, and we need to pay attention to how we monitor them for this risk," he added. "It is also important that patients who are referred for organ transplantation, which is one of the best options for people with chronic kidney disease, are carefully worked up regarding immunosuppression so that we're not transplanting people with [hidden] malignancies."

An estimated 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. Those at particularly high risk include seniors, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Researchers have also found that older men with moderate kidney disease are at higher risk for lung and urinary cancer. The finding came from an Australian study that analyzed a decade's worth of data on more than 3,600 men, aged 49 to 97 and predominately white.

During those 10 years, nearly 20 percent of the men developed cancer. The researchers concluded that moderate kidney dysfunction was associated with a 39 percent increased risk for certain cancers and that men with "significant" kidney disease were three times more likely to develop cancer than those with normal kidney function.

The increased risk of cancer may be the result of systemic inflammation that results from chronic kidney disease, said the team at the Center for Transplant and Renal Research at Children's Hospital in Westmead. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

"Over the last five years, we've come to know that, right out of the box, all patients with chronic kidney disease of any severity have a much higher mortality rate than those who don't," Dr. Robert Provenzano, chief of nephrology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, told HealthDay.

"So, this finding about a link between moderate kidney disease and cancer doesn't surprise me because the notion that one can have 'mild' kidney disease is a misnomer, to begin with," he said. "It's like saying you have mild AIDS. If you have kidney disease of any severity at any age, then your inflammatory response is triggered by definition, period. And this leads to all sorts of bad things, such as inflaming the lining of your blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack or negatively impacting your ability to kill cancer cells," Provenzano explained.

"The probability of getting both chronic kidney disease and cancer simply goes up with age," he added. "It's just a fact. So the message here is that even for so-called mild chronic kidney disease, doctors and patients need to be vigilant about being monitored for these concerns."

High blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are the most common causes of chronic kidney failure, which can also be caused by infections or urinary blockages, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Damaged kidneys have a reduced ability to remove waste from the blood. Symptoms of kidney disease can include:

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Poor sleep
  • An inability to think clearly

On the Web

To learn more about chronic kidney disease, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Robert Provenzano, M.D., chief, nephrology, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Detroit; Matthew Weir, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, division of nephrology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore; April 30, 2009, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, online; American Academy of Family Physicians (
Author: Robert Preidt
Publication Date: May 31, 2010
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