Risk factors

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A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a certain condition or disease, such as cancer. In adults, lifestyle and environmental factors (such as smoking or exposure to certain chemicals) can be significant risk factors for developing certain types of cancer. In children, very few risk factors have been identified that increase the chance of developing cancer. For most children with cancer, the underlying cause is unknown.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it does not mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.

The causes of kidney tumours are not well understood, but factors associated with a higher chance of developing kidney tumours include the following.

Family history

In a small number of 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.

Knowledge of your family’s history relating to cancer may change over time.

Genetic conditions

Wilms tumour is associated with several genetic conditions, including:

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

If your child is diagnosed with one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific follow-up. The health care team will advise which ongoing tests your child will need.

Cancers in children that are linked to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. Speak to your child’s treatment team to see whether genetic counselling is recommended for you or your family.

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

published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015