Press release

Kidney cancer on the rise

New Be Clear on Cancer campaign launched to increase early diagnoses and save lives.

Man consulting a doctor

More people are being diagnosed with [1] and dying from kidney cancer in England today, compared to 10 years ago according to latest figures. Incidence rates have increased by 31% over the last 10 years and mortality rates have increased by 7% over the last decade, with around 3,500 people dying from kidney cancer in England in 2011 [2].

Of those diagnosed with kidney cancer, approximately 71% will survive for at least 1 year, with around 54% surviving for at least 5 years [3]. However, the earlier kidney cancer is diagnosed the higher the chance of survival – when diagnosed at the earliest stage, 1-year survival is as high as 92 to 97% compared to just 25 to 32% at a late stage [4].

One of the reasons people do not receive an early diagnosis is believed to be the public’s lack of awareness of key symptoms. Blood in pee – even if it appears just the once – could be a symptom of both bladder and kidney cancer. However, a recent survey shows that the public doesn’t recognise the seriousness of the sign – almost a third (30%) of people would wait and see if they spotted blood in their pee again before taking any action, which could delay their diagnosis [5].

These figures have been released as a new NHS Be Clear on Cancer campaign launches today, to drive awareness of blood in pee as a key symptom of bladder and kidney cancers, and encourage people to visit their GP if they spot the symptom, even just the once.

Visible blood in pee is a key symptom in more than eight in ten bladder cancers [6] and over half of kidney cancer patients [7]. However, when asked to name cancer signs and symptoms, only a third (33%) of people mention unexplained bleeding [8].

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said:

Receiving an early diagnosis increases the chance of survival for the 16,600 people who are diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer every year in England [9].

Our message is clear – as soon as you spot blood in your pee, visit the GP. It’s probably nothing serious but it could also be a sign of something else that needs treatment, so don’t ignore the symptoms or put off a trip to the doctor.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will see new national adverts running on TV, print and radio from today (15 October) until 20 November. As well as face-to-face events taking place across England, West Bromwich Albion has thrown its support behind the campaign.

The Barclays Premier League side is piloting thermochromic urinals in their stadium to help raise awareness of blood in pee as a potential symptom of bladder and kidney cancers. Heat reactive material has been installed in urinals in the stadium’s East stand – when used, the material will turn red.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

Too many people are dying unnecessarily from bladder and kidney cancers because they don’t know the symptoms to look out for that could save their lives. That is why this new Be Clear on Cancer campaign is so important.

Getting people diagnosed early is a crucial part of this government’s drive to have cancer services amongst the best in the world and save an extra 5,000 lives every year by 2014.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said:

Over the last 10 years we have seen the incidence rate of kidney cancer increase by 31% which is a substantial climb and largely down to unhealthy lifestyles [10]. Although survival rates have been improving, this rise in cases has led to an increase in the number of deaths from the disease.

As an increasing number of people are affected by kidney cancer, it’s important that the public are aware of the early signs to look out for, such as blood in pee. Only then will we see an increase in early diagnosis rates and a further positive impact on England’s survival rate. Currently, around 1,000 deaths from bladder and kidney cancer could be avoided in England each year if survival rates matched the best in Europe [11].

Peter Andre, who lost his brother to kidney cancer in 2012 said:

My entire family and I were devastated when my brother Andrew died of kidney cancer last year. Getting kidney cancer diagnosed and treated earlier can save your life, which is why this Be Clear on Cancer campaign is so important. I can’t urge you enough, if you spot blood in your pee, even if it’s just the once, visit your GP as soon as possible.

Pat Hanlon, Trustee at Kidney Cancer UK, said:

This Be Clear on Cancer campaign has an important role to play in increasing symptom awareness of cancer that, in comparison to others, falls down the pecking order. However, as these new figures show, cases and deaths of kidney cancer have increased over the last 10 years. So, the time has come for people to understand more about this disease and what early signs to look out for.

James Whale, Chairman of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer, the UK’s leading specialist kidney cancer charity, said:

Like many kidney cancer patients, I had not been aware of any major symptoms until I noticed blood in my pee. I told my wife and she suggested that I visit the doctor but I put it off for a while.

A short time later I received my diagnosis and, following an operation to remove my left kidney, I was in recovery. I regret not going to my GP as soon as I spotted blood in my pee but this campaign will hopefully stop others from doing the same. The earlier kidney cancer is diagnosed, the better your chance of survival.

Sara Hiom, Director of Early Diagnosis and Patient Engagement at Cancer Research UK, said:

Detecting bladder and kidney cancers early and ensuring people get the best possible treatment is vital for better survival. Cancer Research UK fully supports the Be Clear on Cancer campaign. Raising awareness of what signs to look out for and encouraging people to see their doctor sooner rather than later if they notice something out of the ordinary is essential.

We can and must do more to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by cancer and improve our cancer survival rates. Alongside campaigns like this, Cancer Research UK continues to fund research that will improve our understanding of the disease – research is helping us better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Andrew Winterbottom, Chairman of Fight Bladder Cancer, said:

Blood in pee is a key symptom in over 80% of bladder cancer cases so it’s important for people to look out for the sign and, if they spot it, visit their GP as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is key to survival so we welcome this new national campaign to increase the public’s symptom awareness.

Colin Bunce, Chair of Action on Bladder Cancer (ABC) and Consultant Urologist in Barnet says:

Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the UK and yet still too many people are not aware of it or the warning signs. This lack of understanding can lead to people being diagnosed at a later stage and result in people dying unnecessarily as they do not receive treatment at the earliest possible stage of their cancer.

Even though bladder cancer accounts for more than 1 in every 30 new cases of cancer each year in England, it is still very much in the shadows in terms of national awareness which is why ABC welcomes this new Be Clear on Cancer campaign.


Scientific references

[1] The European age-standardised incidence rate of kidney cancer has increased by 31% in England over the last 10 years (between 1999 to 2001 to 2008 to 2010). Source: These incidence data were compiled by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK using data provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data is available.

[2] The European age-standardised mortality rate of kidney cancer has increased by 7% in England over the last 10 years (between 2000 to 2002 to 2009 to 2011).These mortality data were compiled by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK using data from the Office for National Statistics, 2011.

[3] Prepared by Cancer Research UK. Original data source: Office for National Statistics (ONS) Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2005 to 2009, followed up to 2010. London: ONS; 2011.

[4] 2004-2008 Survival, Recent cancer outcomes in the East of England, Eastern Cancer Registry and Information Centre (ECRIC).

[5] Online omnibus survey conducted with representative sample of 1107 adults aged 16+ in England between 22 to 26 November 2012 by TNS England BMRB.

[6] Wallace, DM, et al. Delay and survival in bladder cancer. BJU Int. 2002 Jun; 89 (9): p868-7

[7] Tobias J & Hochhauser, D. Cancer and its management (6th edition). 2010: Blackwell publishing.

[8] Unpublished data from the Cancer Awareness Measure conducted in 2012

[9] Data provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data is available.

[10] These incidence data were compiled by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK using data provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data is available.

[11] Abdel-Rahman et al BJC 2009 What if cancer survival in Britain were the same as in Europe: how many deaths are avoidable?.

Notes to Editors

  1. Public Health England is a new executive agency of the Department of Health, which took up its full responsibilities on 1 April 2013. PHE will work with national and local government, industry and the NHS to protect and improve the nation’s health and support healthier choices and will be addressing inequalities by focusing on removing barriers to good health. To find out more visit our website, follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.
  2. The Be Clear on Cancer Blood in Pee campaign was piloted in the Tyne and Tees and Borders TV regions from January to March 2013.
  3. The Be Clear on Cancer campaign is part of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative, run in partnership with Cancer Research UK, to improve England’s cancer survival rates. The Government’s priorities for cancer as set out in Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer (January 2011) includes the ambition to save an additional 5,000 lives per year by 2014 to 2015.
  4. For more information on bladder and kidney cancer visit the NHS Choices website.
  5. Blood in your pee is the most common symptom for both types of cancer. Other bladder cancer symptoms include:
  • needing to pee very often or very suddenly

  • pain while peeing

Other kidney cancer symptoms include:

  • a pain below the ribs that doesn’t go away

  • lump in your stomach

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Published 15 October 2013
Last updated 15 October 2013 + show all updates
  1. Added 11 scientific references above the notes to editors. Changed the image.

  2. First published.