Objective of Research

"This study is being done to evaluate if occupational exposure to several common agents could cause kidney cancer in Canadian men."


Kidney Cancer 101

The Role of the Kidneys

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs responsible for balancing fluids in the body and for removing toxins from the blood. The kidneys also help maintain blood pressure and make sure the body has enough red blood cells.

What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer, like all cancers, is a disease of uncontrolled growth of cells. The two main types of kidney cancer are renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which is the predominant form accounting for about 9 out of 10 kidney cancer cases, and renal transitional cell carcinoma (RTCC).

Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

A risk factor is anything that affects your chances of developing a disease. However, even if you experience some or several risk factors, this does not necessarily mean you will develop a disease. Known risk factors for kidney cancer include:






Crystalline Silica, Engine Emissions, & Asbestos.


Crystalline silica is naturally found in rocks, sand and soil, and becomes a health risk when it is airborne. Workers exposed to crystalline silica are often employed in construction, mining and manufacturing. About 380,000 Canadian workers are exposed to silica; 92% are male (1). Silica causes lung cancer, and has been linked to kidney disease.


Engine emissions are produced through the combustion of diesel and gasoline fuel; they consist of a mixture of gases and particles. Nearly 900,000 Canadian workers are exposed to diesel exhaust (2). Workers exposed to diesel and gasoline emissions work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics, miners, and truck drivers to name a few. Diesel exhaust exposure causes lung cancer, and both diesel and gasoline exhaust are suspected of causing kidney cancer; results have been mixed.


Asbestos is a name given to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Asbestos causes lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the linings of organs, particularly the lung), ovarian cancer, and cancer of the larynx. It is also suspected of causing cancer in a number of other sites in the body. About 152,000 Canadian workers are currently exposed to asbestos (4). Asbestos was used for its heat resistance, strength, insulating and friction properties. Workers currently at risk of exposure to asbestos mainly work in construction and demolition, but also in automotive repair and ship and boat building. Much of the exposure that occurs today is a result of secondary exposure resulting from close contact to buildings or materials that were previously built (more than 35 years ago) using asbestos.

  1. CAREX Canada. Surveillance of occupational and environmental exposures for cancer prevention: Silica (Crystalline) [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 7]. http://www.carexcanada.ca/en/silica_(crystalline)/#occupational_exposures

  2. CAREX Canada. Diesel engine exhaust. 2015.

  3. CAREX Canada. Trichloroethylene. 2015.

  4. CAREX Canada. Asbestos [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 8]. http://www.carexcanada.ca/en/asbestos/occupational_estimate/


National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System

This research project is based on data collected through the National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System (NECSS). The NECSS was a survey collected as a collaborative project between Health Canada and the provincial cancer registries. The NECSS was a population-based survey which included approximately 20,000 people diagnosed with one of 19 cancers and 5,000 age-matched controls (people without cancer) from 8. This survey also collected data on other cancer risk factors including age, diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use, ethnicity, and several socio-demographic characteristics. Many other studies have been carried out using this data; a few of these are included below.

  1. Villeneuve PJ, Johnson KC, Kreiger N, Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group, Mao Y. 1999. ‘Risk factors for prostate cancer: results from the National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System.’ Cancer Causes Control; 10(5):355-87 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10530605

  2. Kachuri L, Villeneuve PJ, Parent MÉ, Johnson KC, Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group, Harris SA. 2016. ‘Workplace exposure to diesel and gasoline engine exhausts and the risk of colorectal cancer in Canadian men.’ Environ Health; 15(4). http://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-016-0088-1

  3. Latifovic L, Villeneuve PJ, Parent MÉ, Johnson KC, Kachuri L, Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group, Harris SA. 2015. ‘Bladder cancer and occupational exposure to diesel and gasoline engine emissions among Canadian men.’ Cancer Med; 4(12):1948-62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26511593


Together everyone achieves more


Dr. Paul Villeneuve is an Associate Professor at Carleton University and an epidemiologist/biostatistician specializing in occupational and environmental health. He holds an MSc (1995) and a PhD (2000) in Epidemiology from the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, respectively, and a B.Math from the University of Waterloo. He is also an Affiliated Scientist with the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, and is accredited as a Professional Statistician (P.Stat). His primary research interests involve evaluating the relationship between occupational and environmental exposures and the risk of chronic diseases. Dr. Villeneuve is the Principal Investigator of the ON-DECK study.


Dr. Cheryl Peters is a Postdoctoral Fellow appointed at both Carleton University and the Institut National de la Research Scientifique (Institut Armand-Frappier). She is also the Lead Scientist for occupational exposures at CAREX Canada (www.carexcanada.ca). She holds a PhD (2015) and an MSc (2007) in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene from the University of British Columbia, as well as a BSc from the University of Victoria. Her research interests include occupational radiation exposure (especially ultraviolet radiation from the sun), exposure assessment in the construction industry, and the impact of sex and gender on occupational exposure. Dr. Peters is the Study Coordinator for the ON-DECK study.


Dr. Marie-Élise Parent is a Professor in epidemiology at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier. She completed her PhD in Nutrition (epidemiology) in Montreal in 1994 and her MSc in Nutrition Sciences (epidemiology) at the University of Toronto in 1988. She completed her BSc in Nutrition from the Université de Montréal. Dr. Parent is an expert in occupational exposure assessment. Her team has long-standing experience in assigning exposures using the expert-based approach using detailed task-based information in the context of population-based studies. Her program focuses on the role of environmental, occupational and genetic factors in the etiology of cancer.


Dr. Paul Demers is the Director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre and a Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He completed his PhD in Epidemiology in 1987 and his MSc in Industrial Hygiene in 1991, both at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Demers was previously the Director of the CAREX Canada project and has been a member of various expert panels including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). He is an occupational epidemiologist with research interests in exposure assessment for occupational carcinogens and the health effects of workplace exposures.


Dr. Shelley Harris is an Associate Professor in the divisions of Epidemiology and Occupational and Environmental Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, where she is a graduate student advisor and teaches Environmental Epidemiology. She is appointed as a Scientist at Cancer Care Ontario and in the Occupational Cancer Research Center. She completed her PhD in Epidemiology in Toronto in 1999 and her MSc in Toxicology and BSc in Environmental Biology and International Agriculture at the University of Guelph. Dr. Harris conducts research with a focus in occupational and environmental cancer epidemiology. She specializes in the development of methods to measure and predict occupational and environmental exposures for large-scale epidemiologic studies and developing methods to estimate human exposures to contaminants using biological markers and questionnaire-based assessment.