Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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 doctor about reducing your risk.
Some factors cannot be altered. Bladder cancer is nearly 3 times more common in men than women. The risk of bladder cancer also increases with age. Incidence rises sharply after age 55. Certain genetic factors or family history may increase the risk of bladder cancer:
Other factors that can increase the risk of bladder cancer include:
Smoking is the biggest risk factor, accounting for nearly half of all bladder cancers. Smoke and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) enter the bloodstream after being inhaled. These agents affect every cell in the body and are eventually processed like normal waste. The kidneys filter the agents from the blood and pass them into the bladder where it is held until urination. As a result, the bladder walls are regularly exposed to concentrated levels of the carcinogenic agents. The carcinogens irritate and damage the cells that line the inside of the bladder, increasing the chance of cancerous cells.
Exposure to certain chemicals greatly increases a person’s risk of bladder cancer. Occupations with highest exposure to such cancer-causing agents include:
Cancer is more likely to develop in areas with inflammation and/or regular injury because of rapid cell changes. There are a number of conditions that cause bladder irritation over a long period of time:
All medical treatments have some degree of risk, and some may increase your risk of certain cancers. Doctors weigh the risk for treatments to the benefits that they provide. Some treatments that may increase the risk of bladder cancer include:
A review of 15 studies suggest obesity is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer when compared to people who have a normal weight. The specific reason for the association is unclear, but obesity is also a risk factor for other types of cancer. It may be related to the body's reaction to excess weight, which may cause inflammation, hormone imbalances, or immune system problems. The higher the weight increase, the higher the risk of bladder cancer.
Dehydration decreases the amount of fluid in the body. As a result, there is a higher concentration of carcinogens in the urine as it sits in the bladder. Increasing fluid intake can decrease the concentration of carcinogens and encourage more frequent urination to pass harmful substances out of the body. Medical guidelines often encourage drinking fluids with certain procedures to help flush medications, dyes, or other harmful materials from the body.
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Last reviewed May 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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