Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

There is no single thing that can cause bladder cancer. Anything that increases your chance of getting bladder cancer is a risk factor. These include:

  • Smoking tobacco: This is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers, including pipe and cigar smokers, are two to three times more likely than nonsmokers to get bladder cancer. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are absorbed into the blood, and then they pass through the kidneys and collect in the urine. These chemicals can damage the inside of the bladder and increase your chances of getting bladder cancer.
  • Age: The chance of developing bladder cancer increases with age, and it is uncommon in people under 40
  • Race: Bladder cancer occurs twice as often in Caucasians as it does in African-Americans and Hispanics. Asians have the lowest rate of developing the disease
  • Gender: Men are up to four times as likely as women to get bladder cancer
  • Personal history of bladder cancer: Bladder cancer has a 50% to 80% chance of returning after treatment. This is the highest of any cancer, including skin cancer
  • Exposure to chemicals: People who work around certain chemicals are more likely to get bladder cancer. These include: 
    • People who work in the rubber, chemical and leather industries
    • Hairdressers
    • Machinists and metal workers
    • Printers
    • Painters
    • Textile workers
    • Truck drivers
  • Infections: People infected with certain parasites, which are more common in tropical climates, have an increased risk of bladder cancer
  • Treatment with cyclophosphamide or arsenic: These drugs, which are used in the treatment of cancer and other conditions, raise the risk of bladder cancer. Arsenic in drinking water may increase risk too.
  • Chronic bladder problems: Urinary tract infections and kidney stones may be risk factors, but no direct link has been established
  • History of taking a fangchi, a Chinese herb
  • Having a kidney transplant
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome)

Not every risk factor causes bladder cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.