What are the risk factors for bladder cancer?


A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer.  Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors. Others cannot be modified, such as age or inherited factors (whether someone in the family has had cancer). 

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease. 

While the causes of bladder cancer are not fully understood, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease.  

These factors include: 

  • smoking – smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer, causing about half of all bladder cancers [8] 
  • increasing age [9]  – bladder cancer is more common in people aged over 60 years [10][11] 
  • being male – bladder cancer is more common in men [12] 
  • having a history of bladder infections, chronic urinary tract infections and untreated bladder stones [13][14][15] 
  • a family history of bladder cancer [16]  
  • genetic factors including Costello syndrome, facio-cutaneous-skeletal syndrome, Cowden syndrome and changes in certain genes linked to bladder cancer [17]  
  • exposure to certain chemicals found in some paints, dyes, metals, and petroleum products [18], such as benzene derivatives and arylamines 
  • drinking water that has high levels of certain chemicals such as arsenic [19] 
  • exposure to radiation therapy treatment for cancers in the pelvis or lower abdomen 
  • use of certain medicines including pioglitazone (used to treat diabetes) and the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide 
  • using urinary catheters for a long time [20]

If you are concerned about your risk for bladder cancer, please see your doctor.