Cancer Deaths Rise in those with Reduced Kidney Function

National Kidney Foundation renews call for early detection of CKD in at-risk individuals

(New York, NY) - Cancer patients are more likely to die from their disease if they have reduced kidney function, according to a new study published in the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

The research also found that the correlation between cancer mortality and kidney disease remained high even in patients with a mild to moderate reduction in kidney function - also known as early stage chronic kidney disease (CKD).

"Like cardiovascular disease, cancer is becoming a major cause of death in people with chronic kidney disease," said the study's lead researcher, Germaine Wong, MD, of the University of Sydney. "Sadly, intervention to improve outcomes in patients with CKD and cancer is limited and more work is needed to find out the reasons for the increased risk and the poor prognosis for CKD-cancer patients."

Previous research by Dr. Wong and her team already established that patients with chronic kidney disease are at increased risk of developing cancer. The latest research shows that patients with CKD are also more likely to die from cancers when compared to patients with normal kidney function.

"This research supports the National Kidney Foundation's recommendation to screen at-risk individuals for kidney disease," said Joseph Vassalotti, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the National Kidney Foundation. "Early detection will ensure patients are aware of their condition and the increased risks that cancer and cardiovascular disease pose to those with CKD."

Key Findings

Of 3,654 predominantly white individuals who were followed for the study, those who had CKD were found to be at least 1.3 times more likely to die from cancers that those without CKD.

The correlation was most dramatic among those CKD patients who had urinary tract cancers (2.5 fold increase in cancer deaths) and among women with breast cancer, who were almost twice as likely to die from their disease if they had CKD.

"People with chronic kidney disease are more likely to develop urinary tract cancers," said Dr. Wong. "But as for breast cancer, we suspect it could be a matter of under-treatment. For example, we already know that women with CKD are less likely to be screened for cancer as a whole. So, their cancers may be more advanced before they receive treatment."

Dr. Wong and her team will continue to validate their findings in other population cohorts while conducting a study to predict the benefits and costs of screening for cancers in CKD patients.

"Cancer in a patient with CKD is a bad prognosis," she said. "Hopefully we can work toward screening in patients with CKD so that prevention measures and monitoring can be initiated early and lives can be saved."

Kidney Disease Facts from the National Kidney Foundation

  • 1 in 3 American adults is at high risk for developing kidney disease today. The risk increases to 1 in 2 over the course of a lifetime.
  • 1 in 9 American adults has kidney disease -- and most don't know it.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of kidney disease.

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families and tens of millions of Americans at risk.

For more information, visit www.kidney.org.