© 2017 Objectives Obesity, typically defined as a body mass index (BMI)≥30 kg/m2, is an established risk factor for renal cell carcinoma (RCC) but is paradoxically linked to less advanced disease at diagnosis and improved outcomes. However, BMI has inherent flaws, and alternate obesity-defining metrics that emphasize abdominal fat are available. We investigated 3 obesity-defining metrics, to better examine the associations of abdominal fat vs. generalized obesity with renal tumor stage, grade, or R.E.N.A.L. nephrometry score. Methods and materials In a prospective cohort of 99 subjects with renal masses undergoing resection and no evidence of metastatic disease, obesity was assessed using 3 metrics: body mass index (BMI), radiographic waist circumference (WC), and retrorenal fat (RRF) pad distance. R.E.N.A.L. nephrometry scores were calculated based on preoperative CT or MRI. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify associations between obesity metrics and nephrometry score, tumor grade, and tumor stage. Results In the 99 subjects, surgery was partial nephrectomy in 51 and radical nephrectomy in 48. Pathology showed benign masses in 11 and RCC in 88 (of which 20 had stage T3 disease). WC was positively correlated with nephrometry score, even after controlling for age, sex, race, and diabetes status (P = 0.02), whereas BMI and RRF were not (P = 0.13, and P = 0.57, respectively). WC in stage T2/T3 subjects was higher than in subjects with benign masses (P = 0.03). In contrast, subjects with Fuhrman grade 1 and 2 tumors had higher BMI (P<0.01) and WC (P = 0.04) than subjects with grade 3 and 4 tumors. Conclusions Our data suggest that obesity measured by WC, but not BMI or RRF, is associated with increased renal mass complexity. Tumor Fuhrman grade exhibited a different trend, with both high WC and BMI associated with lower-grade tumors. Our findings indicate that WC and BMI are not interchangeable obesity metrics. Further evaluation of RCC-specific outcomes using WC vs. BMI is warranted to better understand the complex relationship between general vs. abdominal obesity and RCC characteristics.