Bladder Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) in the urine may lead to the development of bladder cancer. Cigarette smoking contributes to more than 50% of cases, and smoking cigars or pipes also increases the risk.

Other bladder cancer risk factors include the following:

  • Age
  • Chronic bladder inflammation (recurrent urinary tract infections, urinary stones)
  • Consumption of Aristolochia fangchi (herb used in some weight-loss formulas)
  • Diet high in saturated fat
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • External beam radiation
  • Family history of bladder cancer (several genetic risk factors identified)
  • Gender (male)
  • Infection with Schistosoma haematobium (parasite found in many developing countries)
  • Personal history of bladder cancer
  • Race (Caucasian)
  • Treatment with certain drugs (e.g., cyclophosfamide—used to treat cancer)

Exposure to carcinogens in the workplace also increases the risk for bladder cancer. Medical workers exposed during the preparation, storage, administration, or disposal of antineoplastic drugs (used in chemotherapy) are at increased risk. Occupational risk factors include recurrent and early exposure to hair dye, and exposure to dye containing aniline, a chemical used in medical and industrial dyes.

Workers at increased risk include the following:

  • Hairdressers
  • Machinists
  • Printers
  • Painters
  • Truck drivers
  • Workers in rubber, chemical, textile, metal, and leather industries

Publication Review By: Richard Levin, M.D., F.A.C.S., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 17 May 2011