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Bladder Cancer Prevention & Risk Factors

Several factors can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer, but one in particular stands out: tobacco use. People who smoke cigarettes are up to four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop the disease. Cigar and pipe smoking also appear to increase your risk, although it’s unclear by how much.

Studies have shown that smoking is responsible for approximately 50 percent of bladder cancers, and researchers suspect that genetic differences may increase the risk for the disease in some smokers.

Because toxins often leave the body through the bladder, the risk of bladder cancer persists for many years after a person stops smoking. Quitting can still reduce your risk of developing bladder cancer as well as your risk that the disease will come back, though.

Tobacco Treatment Program
Since the mid-1990s, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tobacco Treatment Program has helped thousands of individuals stop using tobacco products.
Learn more

You may also be at an increased risk for bladder cancer if you work in the textile, dye, rubber, leather, paint, or printing industries. This is because you may have been exposed to a class of organic chemicals called aromatic amines, some of which are cancer-causing.

Most other risk factors for bladder cancer are beyond your control, however.

  • Gender: Bladder cancer is nearly three times more common in males than in females.
  • Age: You are most likely to develop bladder cancer after age 70.
  • History of chronic bladder problems: You are more likely to develop bladder cancer if you have had long-term bladder irritation and inflammation, such as that caused by infections and bladder or kidney stones.
  • Use of lymphoma medicine: If you have taken the lymphoma drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®), you are at a higher-than-average risk for bladder cancer.
  • Parasitic infection: In developing countries, 75 percent of bladder cancers are squamous cell carcinomas caused by infection with the parasitic organism Schistosoma haematobium, which is often present in untreated drinking water.