Cancer Risk in Living Kidney Donors

Eric A. Engels; Gary E. Fraser; Bertram L. Kasiske; Jon J. Snyder; Jason Utt; Charles F. Lynch; Jie Li; Karen S. Pawlish; Sandra Brown; Kelly J. Yu; Ruth M. Pfeiffer


American Journal of Transplantation. 2022;22(8):2006-2015. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Living kidney donors are screened for transmissible diseases including cancer. Outcomes following donation are excellent, but concern exists regarding development of chronic kidney disease, and cancer risk is unknown. We used linked transplant and cancer registry data to identify incident cancers among 84,357 kidney donors in the United States (1995–2017). We compared risk with the general population using standardized incidence ratios (SIRs). For selected cancers, we used Poisson regression to compare donors with 47,451 Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2) participants, who typically have healthy lifestyles. During follow-up, 2843 cancers were diagnosed in donors, representing an overall deficit (SIR 0.79, 95%CI 0.76–0.82). None of 46 specified cancer sites occurred in excess relative to the general population, and 15 showed significant deficits (SIR < 1.00). Compared with AHS-2 participants, donors had similar incidence of liver cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma but, starting 7 years after donation, elevated incidence of colorectal cancer (adjusted incidence rate ratio 2.07, 95%CI 1.54–2.79) and kidney cancer (2.97, 1.58–5.58, accounting for the presence of a single kidney in donors). Elevated kidney cancer incidence may reflect adverse processes in donors' remaining kidney. Nonetheless, cancer risk is lower than in the general population, suggesting that enhanced screening is unnecessary.