What Causes Upper Urinary Tract Cancer?

Since the exact cause of this cancer is not known, it is difficult to prevent. Still, there are certain risk factors that are known to affect cancer development.


Upper urinary tract cancer is diagnosed in men 2 times more than in women. But women have a 50% greater chance of dying of this cancer.


Experts are trying to understand the role of race in upper tract cancers. Like bladder cancer, upper urinary tract cancer is less common in African-Americans than whites, but it is more deadly.


As with bladder cancer, upper tract cancer occurs most often in people older than age 70. It is rare in those younger than age 40.


There is a strong link between renal pelvis and ureteral cancers and tobacco use. If you have been a smoker, your risk level is tied to the number of years you smoked. Unlike lung and esophageal cancer, the risk of upper urinary tract or bladder cancer will remain high for decades. Likewise, nonsmokers have a much lower level of risk for these cancers.

Chemicals in the Workplace

Exposure, over time, to chemicals used to make plastics, textiles, leather and rubber, can cause cancer.

Other Risk Factors

  • Longtime use of large amounts of painkillers
  • Certain herbs used to help you lose weight
  • Previous bladder cancer
  • Previous urothelial cancer treatment in smokers


There isn't a lot of proof connecting upper urinary tract cancers to family history. However, in a small number of cases, there are clear genetic factors. So if you have urothelial cancer, your family members could be at higher risk. Family members should avoid risks such as smoking.