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Cigarette smoking: an important renal risk factor – far beyond carcinogenesis

By SR Orth


In recent years, it has become apparent that smoking has a negative impact on renal function, being one of the most important remediable renal risk factors. It has been clearly shown that the risk for high-normal urinary albumin excretion and microalbuminuria is increased in smoking compared to non-smoking subjects of the general population. Data from the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) indicate that at least in males, smoking increases the risk to reach end-stage renal failure. Smoking is particularly "nephrotoxic" in older subjects, subjects with essential hypertension and patients with preexisting renal disease. Of interest, the magnitude of the adverse renal effect of smoking seems to be independent of the underlying renal disease. Death-censored renal graft survival is decreased in smokers, indicating that smoking also damages the renal transplant. Cessation of smoking has been show to reduce the rate of progression of renal failure both in patients with renal disease or a renal transplant. The mechanisms of smoking-induced renal damage are only partly understood and comprise acute hemodynamic (e.g., increase in blood pressure and presumably intraglomerular pressure) and chronic effects (e.g., endothelial cell dysfunction). Renal failure per se leads to an increased cardiovascular risk. The latter is further aggravated by smoking. Particularly survival of smokers with diabetes mellitus on hemodialysis is abysmal. In the present review article the current state of knowledge about the renal risks of smoking is reviewed. It is the aim of the article to point out that smoking not only increases the risk of renal cell carcinoma or uroepithelial cell carcinoma, but also the risk of a faster decline of renal function. The latter is a relatively new negative aspect which has not been widely recognized

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