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Cancer Center

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

The following risk factors have been linked to bladder cancer:

Smoking: Smoking is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as people who don't smoke. Certain chemicals in tobacco smoke are absorbed from the lungs into the blood. From the blood, they are filtered by the kidneys and collect in the urine. These chemicals in the urine damage the cells that line the inside of the bladder and increase the risk of cancer.

Work exposure: Some chemicals used in the making of dye have been linked to bladder cancer. Industries that use certain chemicals may put workers at risk if good safety practices are not followed. Those with the highest risks include the makers of rubber, leather, textiles, and paint products, as well as printing companies. Other workers with a higher risk of bladder cancer include painters, hairdressers, machinists, printers, and truck drivers. Smoking can increase the risk even more among these workers.

Race: Whites are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as are African Americans. Hispanics have lower rates of bladder cancer. We do not know the reason for this.

Age: The risk of bladder cancer goes up with age. About 9 out of 10 people with bladder cancer are over the age of 55.

Gender: Bladder cancer is much more common in men than in women.

Chronic bladder irritation and infections: While urinary infections, kidney stones, and bladder stones may not cause bladder cancer, people who have them are at higher risk for bladder cancer.

Personal or family history of bladder cancer: People who have had bladder cancer have a higher chance of getting another tumor. People whose family members have had bladder cancer also have a higher risk. There are some diseases that run in families that are known to increase bladder cancer risk, too.

Bladder birth defects: Before birth, there is a connection between the belly button and the bladder. Very rarely this connection doesn't go away as it should, and cancer can start there. Another, very rare, birth defect called exstrophy can lead to bladder cancer.

Earlier cancer treatment: Some drugs or radiation used to treat other cancers can increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Arsenic: Arsenic in drinking water has been linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer.

Not drinking enough liquids: People who drink lots of liquids each day have a lower rate of bladder cancer.

*Information from the American Cancer Society.