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Med Hypotheses. 2015 Dec;85(6):953-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Sep 5.

Hypothesis: Urbanization and exposure to urban heat islands contribute to increasing prevalence of kidney stones.

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Nephrology Section, New York Harbor VA Healthcare System, New York, NY, United States; NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States. Electronic address:
NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States.


The prevalence of kidney stones is increasing worldwide. Various etiologies may in part explain this observation including increased prevalence of diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, increased dietary protein and salt content, and decreased dietary dairy products. We hypothesize an additional and novel potential contributor to increasing kidney stone prevalence: migration to urban settings, or urbanization, and resultant exposure of the population to the higher temperatures of urban heat islands (UHIs). Both urbanization and exposure to UHIs are worldwide, continuous trends. Because the difference in temperature between rural and urban settings is greater than the increase in temperature caused by global warming, the potential effect of urbanization on stone prevalence may be of greater magnitude. However, demonstration of a convincing link between urbanization and kidney stones is confounded by many variables simultaneously affected by migration to cities, such as changes in occupation, income, and diet. No data have yet been published supporting this proposed association. We explore the plausibility and limitations of this possible etiology of increasing kidney stone prevalence.

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