of Bladder Cancer

Physicians and individuals alike recognize that the best “treatment” of cancer is preventing its occurrence in the first place or detecting it early when it may be most treatable.

The chance of an individual developing cancer depends on both genetic and non-genetic factors. A genetic factor is an inherited, unchangeable trait, while a non-genetic factor is a variable in a person´s environment, which can often be changed. Non-genetic factors may include diet, exercise, or exposure to other substances present in our surroundings. These non-genetic factors are often referred to as environmental factors. Some non-genetic factors play a role in facilitating the process of healthy cells turning cancerous while other cancers have no known environmental correlation but are known to have a genetic predisposition. A genetic predisposition means that a person may be at higher risk for a certain cancer if a family member has that type of cancer.

Heredity or Genetic Factors

At this time, researchers have not identified any genetic factors that contribute to the development of bladder cancer.1

Family history. People with family members who have bladder cancer are more likely to get the disease. Researchers are studying changes in certain genes that may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Environmental or Non-Genetic Factors

Age. The chance of getting bladder cancer increases with age. Bladder cancer affects primarily people in their sixties and seventies. People younger than 40 rarely get this disease, but it does happen occasionally.

Certain Diabetes Medications: A class of diabetes drugs called thiazolidinediones (TZDs) may increase the risk of bladder cancer.2

Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is directly responsible for most cases of bladder cancer, causing about half of all bladder cancer deaths in men and about one-third of those in women.3

Working in certain industries. Some workers have a higher risk of getting bladder cancer because of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in the workplace. Workers in the rubber, dye, chemical, and leather industries are at increased risk as are hairdressers, machinists, metal workers, printers, painters, textile workers, and truck drivers.

Race. Whites get bladder cancer twice as often as African Americans and Latinos. The lowest rates are among Asians.

Gender. Men are three times more likely than women to develop bladder cancer. Women are more likely to die from the disease, however, because they are often not diagnosed in the early stage.

Screening and Early Detection

There is currently no standard screening test for bladder cancer. The following tests however may be used for screening for a recurrence in individuals with a history of bladder cancer

  • Cystoscopy
  • Urine cytology
  • Urine test for hematuria (blood in the urine)

For many types of cancer, progress in the areas of cancer screening and treatment has offered promise for earlier detection and higher cure rates. The term screening refers to the regular use of certain examinations or tests in persons who do not have any symptoms of a cancer but are at high risk for developing that cancer. When individuals are at high risk for a type of cancer, this means that they have certain characteristics or exposures, called risk factors that make them more likely to develop that type of cancer than those who do not have these risk factors. The risk factors are different for different types of cancer. An awareness of these risk factors is important because 1) some risk factors can be changed (such as smoking or dietary intake), thus decreasing the risk for developing the associated cancer; and 2) persons who are at high risk for developing a cancer can often undergo regular screening measures that are recommended for that cancer type.

Next: Treatment & Management of Bladder Cancer



2 Mamtani R, Haynes K, Bilker WB, et al. Association between longer therapy with thiazolidinediones and risk of bladder cancer: A cohort study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Published early online August 9, 2012. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs328

3 Freedman ND, Silverman DT, Hollenbeck AR, et al. Association between smoking and risk of bladder cancer among men and women. JAMA. 2011;306(7):737-745. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1142