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Kidney cancer


What is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer starts in the cells of the kidney. Approximately 90% of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which begins in cells that line tiny tubes in the kidney’s nephrons (filtering unit). Usually only one kidney is affected, but in rare cases both kidneys may develop cancer.

You can access further information about kidney cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is kidney cancer?

In 2020, 1028 Victorians were diagnosed with kidney cancer. Of these, there were 690 males and 338 females, representing 67.1% and 32.9% of the total Victorian kidney cancer diagnoses, respectively. Currently, kidney cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 13.3 per 100,000 males and 6 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of kidney cancer is 65 years in males and 66 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 3% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.8% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, kidney cancer was the 9th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 19th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of kidney cancer incidence in 2020, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Figure 2: Distribution of kidney cancer incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Kidney cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused kidney cancer among all cases. Most kidney cancer tumours, 61.9%, present as Clear cell adenocarcinoma tumours.


Figure 4: Distribution of kidney cancer morphologies between 2011-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Geographical variance in kidney cancer by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of kidney cancer, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of kidney cancer.


Figure 5: Variation in the incidence of kidney cancer for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Kidney cancer in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age standardised incidence rates of kidney cancer in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate for kidney cancer was 14.5 for males born in the South and Central America region and the lowest rate of 6.1 was observed in males born in the North America region. The highest age standardised incidence rate for kidney cancer was 7.4 for females born in the South and Central America region and lowest rate of 2.3 was observed in females born in the North America region.


Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for kidney cancer in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)



Kidney cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 8 shows the change in 5-year survival for kidney cancer, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for kidney cancer between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 from 50% to 81%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of kidney cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

This webpage was last updated in May 2022