Obesity behind surge in kidney cancers

Kidney cancer rates have increased by 40% over the last 10 years in the UK, and the rise is expected to continue. An estimated 20,000 kidney cancer cases have been caused by obesity over the last decade in England, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.


Cancer Research UK projections show that by 2035 rates could increase by a further 26% in the UK, making kidney one of the fastest growing cancer types.

Around a quarter (24%) of kidney cancer cases are linked to carrying excess weight, and 24% are linked to smoking.

Research shows that obesity is linked to 13 types of cancer, including kidney cancer. Scientists have yet to unravel exactly how being overweight or obese causes kidney cancer, but one explanation could be insulin resistance. 

Insulin resistance

Insulin is a hormone which is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, and the kidneys help process this hormone in the body. Excess weight can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause levels of insulin to rise, telling cells to divide more rapidly.


While not all kidney cancer cases are preventable, there are steps that people can take to cut their risk of developing the disease. Simple things like choosing sugar free drinks, eating meals at roughly the same time each day, and trying to hit 10,000 steps a day can all help you keep a healthy weight.

Every year there are around 11,900 cases of kidney cancer in the UK – 7,400 cases in men and 4,500 cases diagnosed in women. And every year about 4,300 people die from the disease.


Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said, “It’s concerning to see kidney cancer cases rising like this. Being overweight or obese is linked to 13 types of cancer, including kidney which is becoming more and more common. Similar to smoking, where damage to cells builds up over time and increases the risk of cancer, damage from carrying excess weight accumulates over a person’s lifetime.”

“Making small changes in eating, drinking and being physically active that you can stick with in the long term, is a good way to get to a healthy weight – and stay there.”

Related conditions

Related organisations

Related people