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Exploring the Causes and Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

Exploring the Causes and Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

By: Urology Care Foundation | Posted on: 23 May 2016

Exploring the Causes and Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. While we don't know all the causes of Bladder Cancer, we do know there are things you can do to help avoid it. This is because there are known risk factors that can increase the chance of it developing.


Smoking is a major risk factor for bladder cancer. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking increases your risk. Half of all bladder cancer cases in the United States are caused by cigarette smoke. Bladder cancer develops in smokers 2 to 3 times more than in nonsmokers.

When you smoke, you inhale chemicals from the tobacco. The chemicals move from your lungs into your blood. Your kidneys filter the chemicals out of your blood and send them to your bladder. Over time, these chemicals can damage the cells that line the inside of your bladder. This damage increases the chance of cancer developing.

Chemicals in the Workplace

Long-term exposure to chemicals used to make plastics, paints, textiles, leather and rubber may also cause bladder cancer. Hairdressers, machinists, printers, painters and truck drivers may be at risk for bladder cancer. Chemicals may cause about 23 out of every 100 bladder cancer cases. Like the chemicals in cigarette smoke, these chemicals (carcinogens) can remain in the bladder for a few hours before you urinate. In that way, the bladder becomes a place where cancer can develop.

Other Risk Factors

  • Frequent or long lasting bladder infections

  • Certain drugs for other cancers, such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®)

  • Radiation therapy in the pelvic area, such as for cervical cancer or prostate cancer

  • High levels of arsenic in drinking water

1 in 42 people will be diagnosed in their lifetime with bladder cancer and it's the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., according to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN). There are nearly 77,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year, and more than 16,000 will die from it. You can download our Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer Patient Guide for free to learn more.