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Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

A risk factor makes the chances of getting a disease or condition higher.

You can have bladder cancer with or without them. But the more you have, the greater the chances bladder cancer can start.

Some risks can't be changed such as your gender or genes. Bladder cancer is nearly 3 times more common in men than women. The risk of bladder cancer also goes up as you age. The number of people with bladder cancer rises sharply after age 55. How your genes work may also play a role:

  • Certain problems in your genes program cells to grow without control. Some don't break down toxins. This allow them to buildup in the bladder.
  • Family history of bladder or other cancers.
  • Structural problems in the bladder or urinary system that have been there since birth.

Your chances of bladder cancer are also higher for:


Smoking is the linked to nearly half of all bladder cancers. Smoke and cancer-causing agents enter the bloodstream right away. These agents move through the whole body before being filtered out like normal waste. The kidneys filter the agents from the blood. They stay in the bladder until they’re passed from the body in the urine. As a result, the bladder walls are often exposed to concentrated levels of these agents. The agents irritate the inside lining of the bladder.

Exposures at Work

Certain jobs put you at risk of working with harmful substances. These greatly raises the risk of bladder cancer. These jobs carry the highest risk:

  • Painting
  • Dye, leather, paper, rubber, and metal working
  • Hair styling—this includes barbers
  • Plumbing
  • Dry cleaning
  • Working with tar and asphalt
  • Truck driving

Bladder Problems

Cancer is more likely to start and grow in places that cause frequent irritation. This can happen with:

  • Bladder stones —Caused by a buildup of minerals in the bladder. Some stones travel from the kidney. Retained bladder stones can cause bladder problems, even if you don’t feel them.
  • Infections —Create a place where the bladder is frequently irritated.
  • Infection with certain parasites that live in the bladder are linked to a higher chance of a certain type of bladder cancer. Though very rare in the US, it's common in the tropics.
  • Previous bladder cancer —It's common for bladder cancer to come back, even after it's been treated.

Medical Treatment

Doctors weigh the risk and benefits for tests and treatments. Some of them may raise the risk of bladder cancer:

  • Long-term use of a bladder catheter—A bladder catheter is a tube used to drain the bladder of urine. Catheters left in for long periods of time cause irritation and can lead to infections.
  • Cyclophosphamide is a drug used to treat cancers and problems with the immune system. This drug is harmful to the bladder.
  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis. The bladder is near many structures in the pelvis. Radiation aimed in this area may make your risk of bladder cancer higher.
  • Taking pioglitazone for more than one year is linked to a high risk of bladder cancer. It’s used to treat type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about your risk if you take this medicine.


A review of 15 studies suggest obesity is linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer. The reason is not known, but obesity is also linked to other types of cancer. Having too much weight causes stress on the body, making it work differently. Obesity may cause problems with:

  • Inflammation
  • Balancing hormones
  • The immune system

Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated June 26, 2018. Accessed August 3, 2018.

Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated October 2017. Accessed August 3, 2018.

Can bladder cancer be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated May 23, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2018.

General information about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated May 3, 2018. Accessed August 3, 2018.

SEER stat fact sheets: Bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at Accessed August 3, 2018.

12/9/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Zhu Z, Wang X, Shen Z, Lu Y, Zhong S, Xu C. Risk of bladder cancer in patients with diabetes mellitus: An updated meta-analysis of 36 observational studies. BMC Cancer. 2013;13:310.

7/21/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Sun JW, Zhao LG, Yang Y, Ma X, Wang YY, Xiang YB. Obesity and risk of bladder cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis of 15 cohort studies. PLoS One. 2015;10(3):e011931.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP