Previous studies have shown an association between end-stage renal disease and cancer. But new research now indicates that even less severe chronic kidney disease (CKD) may raise the risk of certain types of cancer. 

According to the report in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a history of reduced kidney function — as measured by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) — may put an individual at greater risk for developing renal and urothelial cancers. 

The analysis involved nearly 1.2 million adults aged 40 years and older who were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente Northern California and who had kidney function measured between 2000 and 2008. None had a previous history of cancer, dialysis, or kidney transplantation.

A total of 76,809 incident cancers developed in 72,875 people. Senior investigator Alan S. Go, MD, and his study team discovered the following:
  • Patients with an eGFR of 45 to 59 mL/min/1.73m2 had a 39% increased risk of renal cancer. 
  • Patients with an eGFR of 30 to 44 mL/min/1.73m2 had an 81% increased risk of renal cancer.
  • Patients with an eGFR below 30 mL/min/1.73m2 had a 100% increased risk of renal cancer.
  • Patients with an eGFR below 30 mL/min/1.73m2 had a 48% increased risk of urothelial cancer, including tumors in the bladder and ureters.
Although the exact mechanisms that underlie the connection between reduced kidney function and the development of these cancers are still not completely understood, one explanation may involve inflammation, noted Go in a statement from Kaiser Permanente.