Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma, affects a significant number of individuals, with approximately 6,000 new cases reported annually in South Korea, ranking it among the top ten most common cancers. The development of kidney cancer is attributed to a combination of factors, including lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure, as well as genetic predisposition and prolonged exposure to blood dialysis or certain occupational hazards involving heavy metals. It is essential to understand the detrimental lifestyle habits that compromise kidney health.
Unveiling Unhealthy Kidney Habits:
- Smoking and excessive consumption of grilled or fried meat: Cigarette smoking not only poses a risk for lung cancer but also exposes the kidneys to numerous carcinogens, potentially triggering the formation of cancer cells. According to the National Cancer Information Center, excessive smoking is the most significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma). Smokers have a 2.5 times higher risk of kidney cancer compared to non-smokers. Additionally, consuming excessive amounts of animal fat, fried or charred meats, and high-calorie foods increases the risk of kidney cancer. Cooking meat or fish at high temperatures leads to the production of carcinogenic substances called HCAs (heterocyclic amines).
- The association between obesity and kidney health deterioration: Approximately 20% of kidney cancer cases are related to obesity. Excessive weight gain leads to elevated levels of estrogen (female hormone) and activates insulin-like growth factors, thereby increasing the risk of kidney cancer. Additionally, it is presumed that obesity is associated with a higher risk of atherosclerotic renal artery disease and inflammation in the kidney area.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure: High blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney cancer. Increased vascular pressure leads to sustained kidney damage and inflammation, which is believed to contribute to the formation of cancer cells. Furthermore, problems in the metabolic function of the ureter, which concentrates and transports urine, also have an impact on kidney cancer. Regulating blood pressure through dietary control and exercise is crucial.
Recognizing Symptoms: Initial Absence, Later Signs of Kidney Cancer
In most cases, kidney cancer progresses without notable symptoms, and it is often discovered incidentally during abdominal ultrasound examinations as part of routine health check-ups. Typically, the disease is detected at an early stage, characterized by smaller tumor size and lower stage, which generally indicates a better prognosis. However, 10-30% of patients are diagnosed when the cancer has already metastasized to other organs.
Commonly observed symptoms of kidney cancer include:
- Flank pain
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Palpable mass in the flank or upper abdomen
These three symptoms are typical but occur in more advanced stages of the disease. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weight loss, fever, and anemia. However, most patients who receive early diagnosis do not experience any noticeable symptoms.
Prevention Measures: Reducing Exposure to Carcinogens
- Limit the consumption of animal fat, particularly in grilled or charred meats. Care should be taken as carcinogenic substances, such as benzopyrene, are generated when meat is exposed to high heat.
- Consume a diet rich in dietary fiber found in vegetables and fruits. Dietary fiber directly reduces cholesterol levels in the body. Fruits and vegetables also contain phytochemicals that have significant cancer prevention effects.
- Maintain blood pressure control by consuming a low-sodium