Banner Health
Making healthcare easier

Bladder Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

No one thing causes bladder cancer. However, some people may be at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer given their lifestyle, age and genetics.

There is a lot to consider if you have risk factors for bladder cancer. The caring staff at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is here to talk to you about any concerns you may have.

What are the Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer?

Some risk factors, such as diet and exercise, you can change. Others like age and genetics, you can’t. Keep in mind that having risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get sick. And, not having risk factors doesn’t mean you won’t. That’s why it’s important to know the risk factors, practice healthy habits and always talk to your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms.


Smoking tobacco is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. If you smoke, you are two to three times more likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers. This includes smoking pipes, cigars and vaping/e-cigarettes.

If you need help quitting smoking, we can help.


The chance of developing bladder cancer increases with age. Most people diagnosed with bladder cancer are older than 55 years old, with 73 years old being the average age of diagnosis.

Race and Ethnicity

Bladder cancer is most prevalent in Caucasians. African Americans and Hispanics are less likely to get bladder cancer, with Asian Americans and American Indians representing the lowest rates. Experts are not sure of the reasons for these differences.


Men are four times as likely as women to get bladder cancer.

Personal History of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer has a 50%-80% chance of returning, even after successful treatment. This is the highest recurrence rate of any cancer. If you’ve had cancer in any part of your urinary tract, it’s important to have regular, careful follow-ups with your doctor.


You have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer if you work with:

  • Aromatic amines, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, commonly used in dyes
  • Certain organic chemicals used to make rubber, leather, textiles, paint and print/ink

Tell your doctor if you work as any of the following because you are more likely to develop bladder cancer:

  • Rubber, chemical, textile or leather industries
  • Hairdresser
  • Machinist
  • Metal worker
  • Printer
  • Painter
  • Truck driver
  • Dry cleaner

Additionally, if you smoke and work with cancer-causing chemicals, you have an especially high risk of bladder cancer.


Urinary tract infections (UITs), kidney and bladder stones and ongoing bladder irritation have been linked to bladder cancer.

Medications and Supplements

The diabetes medicine pioglitazone has been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Dietary supplements containing aristolochic acid (aristolochia fangchi) are unsafe. Taking any form of this Chinese herb, including birthworts, pipevines and wild ginger, greatly increases your risk of bladder and urinary tract cancers, and is toxic to the kidneys.

Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, and Kidney Transplant

The chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide can irritate the bladder and increase your risk of bladder cancer. If you take this drug, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help protect your bladder from irritation.

If you have had a kidney transplant or had radiation treatment to your pelvis, you are more likely to develop bladder cancer. Pay attention to potential symptoms of bladder cancer and be sure to talk to your doctor.


Genetics and Family History

If someone in your family has had bladder cancer, you have a higher risk of getting it as well. This may be due to genetics or shared environmental factors, such as being exposed to tobacco smoke.

Learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing.

How Can I Prevent Bladder Cancer?

If you have risk factors for bladder cancer, there are things you can do to lower your risk and tests you can take to help find it early. Awareness is critical. In most cases, bladder cancer is treatable with prompt diagnosis.

Can apple cider vinegar prevent bladder cancer?

Apple cider vinegar, a strong acid some people take orally, does not prevent bladder cancer and it’s not a replacement for medical treatment. In recent years, its popularity has grown as a home remedy with a number of uses. While generally a safe product, it can have bad side effects and should not be used to treat serious medical issues. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Request an appointment