Medicine (MD/DO)
Urologic Cancer
Renal Cell Carcinoma Characteristics

Master Renal Cell Carcinoma Characteristics with Picmonic for Medicine

With Picmonic, facts become pictures. We've taken what the science shows - image mnemonics work - but we've boosted the effectiveness by building and associating memorable characters, interesting audio stories, and built-in quizzing.

Renal Cell Carcinoma Characteristics

Recommended Picmonics

picmonic thumbnail
Wilms' Tumor (Nephroblastoma)
picmonic thumbnail
Prostate Cancer Assessment
picmonic thumbnail
Transitional Cell Carcinoma
picmonic thumbnail
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Bladder Clinical Features
picmonic thumbnail
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Bladder Diagnosis and Management

Renal Cell Carcinoma Characteristics

Kidney Car-gnome Tumor-guys
Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is a type of kidney cancer. The pathophysiology commonly involves a defect in the VHL gene on chromosome 3. This cancer affects the cells of the proximal convoluted tubule. Risk factors include smoking, nephrolithiasis, and chronic analgesic use. RCC has several notable subtypes including clear cell, papillary, and chromophobic.
Chromosome 3
Chromosome (3) Tree

Alteration of the short arm of chromosome 3 is the most common chromosomal abnormality seen in renal cell carcinoma, especially in the clear cell subtype. Other less common chromosomal aberrations include include trisomy of chromosomes 7 and 17 or loss of the Y chromosome (papillary subtype). Loss of multiple chromosomes (1, 2, 6, 10, 13, 17, and 21) is seen in the chromophobic subtype of renal cell carcinoma.

VHL Gene
Van-hippo Landing-owl

The VHL tumor suppressor gene's inactivation is commonly seen in renal cell carcinoma (25-45% of clear cell carcinoma cases). It can also be associated with tuberous sclerosis (2% of cases of clear cell subtype). VHL gene mutation is found in Von Hippel-Lindau Disease, which is characterized by multiple tumors: renal cell carcinoma, hemangioblastomas, and pheochromocytomas.

Proximal Convoluted Tubule
P-rocks at Opening of Tube

Renal cell carcinoma most commonly arises from proximal convoluted tubule epithelium. However, other kidney segments can also be involved, including distal tubular epithelium (associated with papillary RCC) and intercalated cells of the collecting duct (associated with chromophobic RCC).


Smoking increases the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma. It has a dose-dependent impact. Other toxins like asbestos, heavy metal, and petroleum by-products may increase RCC risk.

Kidney-throwing Stones

Nephrolithiasis is associated with chronic inflammation and infection, which triggers an alteration in the proliferation of urothelial cells. This can progress to malignancy and explains the increased risk of renal cell carcinoma found in patients with recurrent nephrolithiasis.

Chronic Analgesic Use
Crone A-nail-Jay-Z

Chronic analgesic use, including acetaminophen and non-aspirin NSAIDs, is shown to increase renal cell carcinoma risk. It is expected that the metabolites of these drugs are carcinogenic, but more investigation is needed to understand its biological association. Other renal cell carcinoma risk factors may include hypertension and obesity.

Clear Cell
Clear Cell

Renal cell carcinoma can be classified based on its cell origin: clear cell, papillary, and chromophobic. Clear cell carcinoma arises from proximal renal tubules and can be found in 85% of cases. Gross findings include a sphere-like mass formed by golden-yellow tissue with focal hemorrhage and necrosis. Microscopic findings include polygonal cells with abundant clear cytoplasm and small nuclei.


Papillary renal cell carcinoma arises from the distal tubular epithelium and is found in 10-15% of all renal cell carcinoma cases. Gross findings include a well-circumscribed and grayish-white mass with frequent hemorrhages and central necrosis. Microscopic findings are divided into two main subtypes. Both subtypes are characterized by papillae with a central fibrovascular core (true papillae) containing foamy histiocytes lined by a single layer of cells. Type 1: basophilic cytoplasm and Type 2: abundant eosinophilic cytoplasm.


Chromophobic renal cell carcinoma arises from intercalated cells of the collecting duct and is found in about 5% of all renal cell carcinoma cases. The tumor can be seen with one or more nodules with a lobulated surface. Microscopic findings are characterized by large, chromophobic polygonal cells which can be hard to differentiate from oncocytoma.


Take the Renal Cell Carcinoma Characteristics Quiz

Picmonic's rapid review multiple-choice quiz allows you to assess your knowledge.

It's worth every penny

Our Story Mnemonics Increase Mastery and Retention

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Unforgettable characters with concise but impactful videos (2-4 min each)

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Ace Your Medicine (MD/DO) Classes & Exams with Picmonic:

Over 1,920,000 students use Picmonic’s picture mnemonics to improve knowledge, retention, and exam performance.

Choose the #1 Medicine (MD/DO) student study app.

Picmonic for Medicine (MD/DO) covers information that is relevant to your entire Medicine (MD/DO) education. Whether you’re studying for your classes or getting ready to conquer the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, COMLEX Level 1, or COMLEX Level 2, we’re here to help.

Works better than traditional Medicine (MD/DO) flashcards.

Research shows that students who use Picmonic see a 331% improvement in memory retention and a 50% improvement in test scores.