Kidney cancer incidence in the USA has been steadily increasing over the past several decades. The reasons for this are not completely clear, but an increased prevalence of known predisposing factors may be promoting this trend. Several major risk factors for kidney cancer have been identified. Among these, obesity is notable because its incidence has risen dramatically during this same period of time. Here, we will review the relationship between obesity and kidney cancer, and will explore the idea that obesity-mediated alterations in immune function may render immunotherapies for renal tumors ineffective. To support this idea, we will summarize characteristics of endogenous immune responses to renal tumors, as well as existing and developing immune-based therapies for kidney cancer patients. In doing so, we will highlight the ways in which altered immune function in obese individuals may render these therapies ineffective. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media.