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Bladder cancer risk factors

Anyone can get bladder cancer, but factors such as age, race and gender may increase the risk of bladder cancer developing. Knowing the risk factors may help you catch bladder cancer earlier.

cancer risks

Bladder cancer risk factors

Some common risk factors for bladder cancer include:

GENERAL

  • Gender: Men are at a higher risk than women of getting bladder cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, men have an approximately 1 in 26 chance of developing bladder cancer in their lifetime. For women, this chance is about 1 in 86.
  • Age: Most people who get bladder cancer are older in age. The average age at diagnosis is 73, and 90 percent of patients are over age 55.
  • Race: Bladder cancer is twice as common among Caucasians as African Americans. This disease is less common among Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

GENETICS

  • Family history: Individuals with a family member who has or has had bladder cancer are at an increased risk for developing this malignancy. Sometimes, family members with bladder cancer have all been exposed to the same carcinogen. Other times, they may all have certain genetic abnormalities associated with bladder cancer. Specifically, mutations in genes known as GNT and NAT may trigger changes in the body’s breakdown of some toxins, which can in turn lead to malignancies in the bladder wall.

Other inherited genetic syndromes are also considered bladder cancer risk factors, such as:

  • Rb1: An altered form of Rb1, retinoblastoma gene, is associated with cancer of the eye in infants, and may increase your bladder cancer risks.
  • Cowden disease: This syndrome, linked to an abnormal form of the gene PTEN, can trigger cancers of the breast and thyroid, and increases the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Lynch syndrome: This genetic condition, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, is usually tied to colon and endometrial cancer. However, this syndrome can also increase the risk of bladder cancer and cancer of the ureter.

LIFESTYLE

  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the single greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers are more than twice as likely to get bladder cancer compared to nonsmokers. Inhalation during cigarette smoking brings some of the cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes out of the lungs and into the blood. These carcinogens are then filtered by the kidneys and deposited into urine. As urine is held in the bladder, the carcinogens present in the fluid can damage the cells on the bladder wall, increasing the risk of cancer developing.
  • Workplace exposure: Some chemicals used in the dye industry, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, have been associated with bladder cancer. Other industries where chemicals are used that may cause bladder cancer include rubber, leather, textiles, paint manufacturing and printing. Jobs that may raise the risk of bladder cancer include painters, machinists, printers, hairdressers (due to hair dye exposure) and truck drivers (due to diesel fume exposure).
  • Arsenic: Drinking water that contains arsenic has been linked to bladder cancer. Exposure depends on where a person lives and the water source. In the United States, there are safety measures in place that limit the level of arsenic in public drinking water.
  • Low fluid consumption: Drinking plenty of fluids daily can diminish your bladder cancer risks. Likewise, not drinking enough may increase this risk because chemicals are left in the bladder longer.

OTHER CONDITIONS

  • Chronic bladder infections and irritation: Problems associated with increased bladder cancer risks include urinary infections, kidney and bladder stones, and other causes of bladder irritation. Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, can reach the bladder and is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell bladder cancer. In the United States, schistosomiasis is very rare. In Africa and the Middle East, where this parasite is more common, squamous cell bladder cancer is more common.
  • Personal history of bladder cancer: Cancer can occur in other regions of the urothelium, such as in the lining of the kidneys, ureter and urethra. Cancer in any of these areas can increase the risk of another tumor in this layer of cells. People who have bladder cancer need to be closely monitored following treatment because additional tumors in the urothelium are so common.
  • Bladder defects from birth: Normally, there is a connection between the belly button and the bladder before we are born that disappears before birth. Sometimes, part of this connection remains after birth, and can become cancerous. In another birth defect, the bladder and abdominal wall become fused together, leaving the inner lining of the bladder exposed to other areas of the body. Even following corrective surgery, people who have or had this problem are at a higher risk for bladder cancer.

PREVIOUS TREATMENTS

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: Long-term use of the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide is associated with a heightened risk of bladder cancer. Drinking extra fluids while taking this drug can help lower this risk. Radiation aimed at the pelvis is also considered a risk factor for bladder cancer.

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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