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  • Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

    A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.
    It is possible to develop bladder cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing bladder cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.
    Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

    Smoking Tobacco

    A huge number of cases of bladder cancer are associated with smoking tobacco. Researchers think that more than half of all bladder cancers can be linked to tobacco use. The risk of developing bladder cancer increases depending on how many years you have smoked, how many cigarettes you smoked per day, and whether you inhale the smoke.
    Once you completely stop smoking, it takes a full 20 years to drop your risk of bladder cancer back down to the risk faced by someone who has never smoked, but your risk decreases the longer you remain smoke-free.

    Industrial Chemicals

    It appears that exposure to certain chemicals greatly increases a person’s risk of bladder cancer. Workers who are most likely to be exposed to such cancer-causing agents include the following:
    • Painters
    • Workers in the dye, leather, paper, rubber, and metal industries
    • Barbers and beauticians
    • Plumbers
    • People working with dry-cleaning chemicals


    Treatment with the drug cyclophosphamide (used in chemotherapy and to treat certain autoimmune disorders, such as lupus ) can also increase your risk of bladder cancer.

    Bladder Irritation

    Conditions that allow your bladder to be chronically irritated over a long period of time can increase your chance of developing bladder cancer. Irritating conditions include the following:
    • The presence of a bladder catheter—A bladder catheter is a tube used to drain the bladder when the bladder is not able to do so normally; these are often required by people who have certain types of paralysis.
    • Bladder stones—These are abnormal accumulations of substances that create a stone-like formation in the bladder.
    • Bladder infections left untreated over a long period of time
    • Infection with certain parasites that live in the bladder, particularly the parasitic infection called Schistosomiasis —This parasite is not found in the United States, but is common in tropical regions of the world.

    Radiation Therapy

    You may have a slightly increased risk of developing bladder cancer if you’ve had radiation therapy for cervical or ovarian cancer . Your risk is even more greatly increased if you also received chemotherapy for one of those conditions.


    Campell’s Urology. 8th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Science; 2002: 2732-2765.

    Cecil Textbook of Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 633-634.

    Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 720-721.

    What you need to know about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/bladder . Accessed December 2002.

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