Kidney cancer is caused 'decades before diagnosis'
Seeds of kidney cancer may be planted in childhood or adolescence, decades before the disease is diagnosed, scientists have learned.
The common fault, caused by the botched repair of broken chromosomes, remains hidden and harmless in the majority of the population.
But in an "unlucky" few - 1pc or 2pc - it combines with other genetic errors to set the cancer time-bomb ticking. A single damaged cell may be all it takes to trigger aggressive and terminal kidney cancer almost a lifetime after the first step towards the disease is taken.
Dr Peter Campbell, of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, said: "We can now say what the initiating genetic changes are in kidney cancer, and when they happen. What is remarkable is that the hallmark genomic event that characterises kidney cancer takes place on average 40-50 years before the cancer is diagnosed.
"These first seeds are sown in childhood or adolescence. Knowing the sequence of events and their timings opens opportunities for intervention."
It is one of the fastest-growing cancers in terms of incidence, with rates increasing by 50pc in the past decade.
Risk factors for kidney cancer include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and a family history of the disease.