CONTEXT: Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in adults comprises a heterogeneous group of tumours with variable clinical outcomes that range from indolent to overtly malignant. The application of molecular genetic techniques to the study of renal neoplasms has resulted in an improved classification of these entities and a better understanding of the biologic mechanisms responsible for tumour development and progression. The current 2004 World Health Organisation classification of adult renal epithelial neoplasms has expanded rapidly with new categories recently incorporated. OBJECTIVE: To review and evaluate the evidence implicating pathologic features and classification of RCC in adults as a tool to approach patients' prognosis and modulate current therapy. EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: Members of Committee 3: Pathology, under the auspices of the International Consultation on Urological Diseases and the European Association of Urology (ICUD-EAU) International Consultation on Kidney Cancer, performed a systematic review using PubMed. Participating pathologists discussed pathologic categories and diagnostic features of RCC in adults. EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: We reviewed and discussed articles and the personal experiences of participating uropathologists. CONCLUSIONS: The conclusions reached by the ICUD-EAU 2010 International Consultation on Kidney Cancer emphasise the appropriate pathologic diagnosis of RCC in adults as a tool to approach patients' prognosis and modulate current therapy. Further emphasis should be placed on defining risk groups of RCC and diagnostic features of unusual tumours such as familial RCC, translocation RCC, and tubular mucinous and spindle cell carcinoma. A number of recently described entities and morphologic variants of classical categories deserves recognition because they can be important in differential diagnosis and therapy.