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World J Radiol. 2016 May 28;8(5):484-500. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v8.i5.484.

Review of renal cell carcinoma and its common subtypes in radiology.

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Gavin Low, Guan Huang, Winnie Fu, Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2B7, Canada.


Representing 2%-3% of adult cancers, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) accounts for 90% of renal malignancies and is the most lethal neoplasm of the urologic system. Over the last 65 years, the incidence of RCC has increased at a rate of 2% per year. The increased incidence is at least partly due to improved tumor detection secondary to greater availability of high-resolution cross-sectional imaging modalities over the last few decades. Most RCCs are asymptomatic at discovery and are detected as unexpected findings on imaging performed for unrelated clinical indications. The 2004 World Health Organization Classification of adult renal tumors stratifies RCC into several distinct histologic subtypes of which clear cell, papillary and chromophobe tumors account for 70%, 10%-15%, and 5%, respectively. Knowledge of the RCC subtype is important because the various subtypes are associated with different biologic behavior, prognosis and treatment options. Furthermore, the common RCC subtypes can often be discriminated non-invasively based on gross morphologic imaging appearances, signal intensity on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images, and the degree of tumor enhancement on dynamic contrast-enhanced computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging examinations. In this article, we review the incidence and survival data, risk factors, clinical and biochemical findings, imaging findings, staging, differential diagnosis, management options and post-treatment follow-up of RCC, with attention focused on the common subtypes.


Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma; Clear cell renal cell carcinoma; Magnetic resonance imaging; Multidetector computed tomography; Papillary renal cell carcinoma; Treatment protocols; Tumor staging

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