SEEDS of kidney cancer may be planted in childhood or adolescence, decades before the disease is diagnosed, scientists have learned. The common fault, caused by the botched repair of broken chromosomes, remains hidden and harmless in the majority of the population.

But in an “unlucky” few – a mere 1 per cent or 2 per cent – it combines with other genetic errors to set the cancer time bomb ticking.

A single damaged cell may be all it takes to trigger aggressive and terminal kidney cancer almost a lifetime after the first step towards the disease is taken.

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