Epidemiological studies document strong associations between acute or chronic kidney injury and kidney tumors. However, whether these associations are linked by causation, and in which direction, is unclear. Accumulating data from basic and clinical research now shed light on this issue and prompt us to propose a new pathophysiological concept with immanent implications in the management of patients with kidney disease and patients with kidney tumors. As a central paradigm, this review proposes the mechanisms of kidney damage and repair that are active during acute kidney injury but also during persistent injuries in chronic kidney disease as triggers of DNA damage promoting the expansion of (pre-)malignant cell clones. As renal progenitors have been identified by different studies as the cell of origin for several benign and malignant kidney tumors, we discuss how the different types of kidney tumors relate to renal progenitors at specific sites of injury and to germline or somatic mutations in distinct signaling pathways. We explain how known risk factors for kidney cancer rather represent risk factors for kidney injury as an upstream cause of cancer. Finally, we propose a new role for nephrologists in kidney cancer, i.e. the primary and secondary prevention and treatment of kidney injury to reduce incidence, prevalence, and recurrence of kidney cancer.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.