Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a certain condition or disease. Researchers know about some risk factors that increase the chance of developing cancer. However, for most children with cancer, the cause is unknown.

What we do know is that if a child develops cancer, it’s not because of something they, or their parents did to cause it. No one is to blame if a child develops cancer.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it doesn’t mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer. And others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, the risk factor may not have had much to do with it.

Researchers don’t completely understand what causes kidney tumours. However, some things are linked to a higher chance of getting kidney tumours.


Family history

In a few children with Wilms tumour, one or more of their relatives also has Wilms tumour. These children are more likely to develop tumours in both kidneys.

Genetic conditions

Research links Wilms tumour with several genetic conditions. They include:

  • WAGR syndrome
  • Beckwith–Weidemann syndrome
  • Denys–Drash syndrome
  • hemihypertrophy syndrome.

If your child has one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific care. Your health care team will talk to you about which ongoing tests your child will need.

Childhood cancers that have links to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. You can ask your child’s treatment team if you or your family should get genetic counselling.

To learn more about genetic conditions, see the children’s cancer glossary or the Centre for Genetics Education.