Overview of Upper Tract Tumors

Upper tract tumors develop in tissue in the kidneys that collects urine (i.e., the renal pelvis) and the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters). Cancer that originates in the upper urinary tract accounts for less than 1 percent of cancers of the reproductive and urinary systems (genitourinary tract). Upper tract tumors are often associated with bladder cancer.

Types of Upper Tract Tumors

More than 90 percent of renal pelvis tumors develop in surface lining cells (transitional epithelial cells). This type is called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). TCC often develops in multiple areas of the upper urinary tract.

Fewer than 10 percent of renal pelvis tumors are squamous cell carcinomas, which develop in flat surface cells that line the renal pelvis. Adenocarcinoma, which develops in glandular cells, is extremely rare. These types of renal pelvis tumors are associated with inflammation caused by chronic urinary tract infections and kidney stones.

Incidence and Prevalence of Upper Tract Tumors

According to the American Cancer Society, incidence of upper tract tumors is about 1-2 cases per 100,000 people each year. Renal pelvis tumors are more common in men and in Caucasians.

Peak incidence occurs in the 60- to 70-year age group. The highest incidence is in Balkan countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Romania.

Upper tract tumors occurring on both sides (bilateral) account for less than 2 percent of cases.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015