Bladder Cancer: Risk Factors

Bladder cancer is the second most common urologic cancer after prostate cancer. About 67,200 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
While the exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown, the following have been identified as risk factors:

Gender Bladder cancer affects more men each year (50,050 cases) than women (17,150 cases)

Age Nearly 90 percent of people with bladder cancer are over age 55.

Race and ethnicity Caucasians are nearly twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African Americans. Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians have slightly lower rates of bladder cancer.

Smoking Tobacco use causes about half of the bladder cancers in both men and women. Smokers are also at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers. Further, smokers who work with the cancer-causing chemicals have especially high risk of developing bladder cancer.

Workplace exposures Chemicals called aromatic amines, sometimes used in the dye industry, can cause bladder cancer. There is also increased risk for bladder cancer for those working in the manufacturing of rubber, leather, textiles, and paint industries. Other workers at risk include painters, printers, machinists, hairdressers (likely to due exposure to hair dyes), and truck drivers (likely due to exposure to diesel fumes).

Arsenic in drinking water has also been linked with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Chronic bladder irritation and infections Urinary infections, kidney and bladder stones, and chronic bladder irritation have been linked to bladder cancer, but it is not certain whether they actually cause it.

Personal history of bladder or other urothelial cancer Having a cancer in any part of the urinary tract lining increased a patient’s risk of developing another tumor.

Rare birth defects involving the bladder A canal (the urachus) connecting the belly button and the bladder normally closes up by the time of birth. If any part of this connection remains, the bladder may become cancerous.

In another rare birth defect called extrophy, both the bladder and the abdominal wall in front of the bladder fail to close completely and are fuse together. While this can be corrected surgically, it greatly increases the risk for contracting bladder cancer.

Genetics and family history These inherited traits are known to increases a person’s risk for developing bladder cancer:

  • A mutation of the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene
  • Cowden disease
  • Lynch syndrome