Purpose To validate prognostic factors and determine the impact of obesity, hypertension, smoking and diabetes mellitus (DM) on risk of recurrence after surgery in patients with localized renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Materials and methods We performed a retrospective cohort study among patients that underwent partial or radical nephrectomy at Weill Cornell Medicine for RCC and collected preoperative information on RCC risk factors, as well as pathological data. Cases were reviewed for radiographic evidence of RCC recurrence. A Cox proportional-hazards model was developed to determine the contribution of RCC risk factors to recurrence risk. Disease-free survival and overall survival were analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank test. Results We identified 873 patients who underwent surgery for RCC between the years 2000–2015. In total 115 patients (13.2%) experienced a disease recurrence after a median follow up of 4.9 years. In multivariate analysis, increasing pathological T-stage (HR 1.429, 95% CI 1.265–1.614) and Nuclear grade (HR 2.376, 95% CI 1.734–3.255) were independently associated with RCC recurrence. In patients with T1-2 tumors, DM was identified as an additional independent risk factor for RCC recurrence (HR 2.744, 95% CI 1.343–5.605). Patients with DM had a significantly shorter median disease-free survival (1.5 years versus 2.6 years, p = 0.004), as well as median overall survival (4.1 years, versus 5.8 years, p<0.001). Conclusions We validated high pathological T-stage and nuclear grade as independent risk factors for RCC recurrence following nephrectomy. DM is associated with an increased risk of recurrence among patients with early stage disease.