Bladder Cancer Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention

Bladder Cancer Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention


Anyone can get bladder cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. The main risk factors include smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, and having a family history of the disease.

This information explains the risk factors for bladder cancer.


Request an Appointment

Call 800-525-2225
Available Monday through Friday, to (Eastern time)

Smoking and bladder cancer

Tobacco use is the main risk factor for bladder cancer. Your risk gets higher the more you smoke, and the longer you smoke. The best way to lower your risk is to avoid smoking, or quit.

When you inhale (breathe in) burning tobacco, chemicals that cause cancer enter your bloodstream. Your kidneys filter the chemicals from your blood. These chemicals go into your urine (pee). They can harm cells in your bladder and the rest of your urinary system.

People who quit smoking have a lower risk for bladder cancer than smokers. Your risk keeps falling the longer you stop smoking.

In 2022, a team of MSK doctors published research about smokers and bladder cancer. They found that 1 out of every 4 smokers did not know smoking could cause non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC).

People who smoke often don’t know smoking is a risk factor for bladder cancer. But people who quit smoking often are aware smoking raised their risk for bladder cancer.

If you keep smoking, it can harm your health and how well your bladder cancer treatment works.

Chemical exposure can raise bladder cancer risk

Jobs in some industries use chemicals called aromatic amines that may raise your risk. These chemicals are most common in the textile, dye, rubber, leather, paint, and printing industries.

Exposure to chemicals also raises the risk of bladder cancer for truck drivers (diesel fumes), hairdressers (hair dyes), and machinists.

Arsenic is linked to higher rates of bladder cancer. This is more common in areas of the world that have a lot of arsenic in the groundwater. They include Chile, Argentina, Taiwan, and some northeastern states in the United States.

Family and genetic history of bladder cancer

You may be twice as likely to get bladder cancer if a close relative has the disease. A close relative is a parent, sibling, or child related to you by blood. It’s possible that the genes you were born with make it harder for your body to remove harmful chemicals. Those chemicals can raise your risk for bladder cancer.

Lynch syndrome also raises the risk of bladder cancer and cancer of the ureter or renal pelvis. It’s caused by hereditary changes (mutations or variants) in your genes, passed to you from a parent before you were born.

Chronic bladder problems and urinary tract infections

Infections, bladder stones, and kidney stones can cause long-term bladder irritation and inflammation (swelling). This raises the risk for bladder cancer. People with spinal cord injuries are at risk for both chronic infections and kidney stones.

A parasitic infection called schistosomiasis raises the risk for squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is most often found in areas where schistosomiasis is common, such as the Middle East.


You’re more likely to get the disease after age 70, but younger people can get bladder cancer, too.

Sex: bladder cancer is 3 times more common in males

People assigned male at birth are at higher risk than people assigned female at birth. The chance that a male will get bladder cancer is about 1 in 27. For females, the chance is about 1 in 89.

Chemotherapy or radiation

Certain chemotherapy drugs increase the long-term risk of developing bladder cancer. Cyclophosphamide is one of these medications. Radiation treatment to the pelvis also may raise the risk for getting bladder tumors, some research studies suggest.

Diabetes medication

Pioglitazone (Actos®) is a drug that treats type 2 diabetes. It’s linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).