Fifty two percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 will develop the disease. (Bigstock)

A new model predicts that about half of all people aged 30 and older in the United States will develop chronic kidney disease during their lifetimes, a surprisingly large proportion for a condition that is not on the radar screens of many Americans.

Writing in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases Monday, a team of researchers concluded that 54 percent of people between the ages of 30 and 49 will develop the disease. The figure is 52 percent for people between the ages of 50 and 64, and 42 percent for those 65 and older.

"This compares to lifetime incidences of 12.5% for breast cancer in women, 33% to 38% for diabetes, and 90% for hypertension in middle-aged men and women," the researchers wrote.

In 2020, 14.4 percent of all people 30 or older will have chronic kidney disease, up from 13.2 percent today. In 2030, the proportion will rise to 16.7 percent, the researchers predict.

"It is a high number and certainly the organizations that focus on kidney disease are trying to raise awareness of that high number," said Thomas Hoerger, a senior fellow who specializes in health economics at RTI International, a North Carolina nonprofit research organization.

Part of the problem, Hoerger said, is that we are living longer, and kidney function declines with age. But another contributor to the spread of the disease may be the growth of Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to kidney disease. That, of course, is a lifestyle issue and an outgrowth of the obesity epidemic.

Most Americans don't even think of chronic kidney disease among the major threats to their health because until it reaches its end stages -- when dialysis and perhaps transplants are necessary -- the disease is largely asymptomatic, Hoerger said.

Many people will die, of various causes, before they reach end stage kidney disease, the researchers wrote, but with so many at risk, the challenge for health providers is to develop interventions that slow its progression, Hoerger said.