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Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

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A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop bladder cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing bladder cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

Smoking Tobacco

A large number of cases of bladder cancer are associated with smoking tobacco. The risk of developing bladder cancer increases depending on how many years you have smoked, how many cigarettes you smoked per day, and whether you inhale the smoke.

Industrial Chemicals

Exposure to certain chemicals greatly increases a person’s risk of bladder cancer. Workers who are most likely to be exposed to such cancer-causing agents include the following:

  • Painters
  • Workers in the dye, leather, paper, rubber, and metal industries
  • Barbers and beauticians
  • Plumbers
  • People working with dry-cleaning chemicals
  • Tar and asphalt workers
  • Truck drivers


Treatment with the drug cyclophosphamide can also increase your risk of bladder cancer. This drug is used in chemotherapy and to treat certain autoimmune disorders, such as lupus .

Pioglitazone also increases the risk of bladder cancer. This medication is used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Bladder Irritation

Conditions that allow your bladder to be chronically irritated over a long period of time can increase your chance of developing bladder cancer. Irritating conditions include the following:

  • The presence of a bladder catheter—A bladder catheter is a tube used to drain the bladder when the bladder is not able to do so normally; these are often required by people who have certain types of paralysis.
  • Bladder stones—These are occur from abnormal build up of substances that create a stone-like formation in the bladder.
  • Bladder infections left untreated over a long period of time
  • Infection with certain parasites that live in the bladder, particularly Schistosomiasis . This parasite is not found in the United States, but is common in tropical regions of the world.

Radiation Therapy

You may have a slightly increased risk of developing bladder cancer if you’ve had:


There is a risk of bladder cancer in those with diabetes. Manage your diabetes to reduce your risk.

Revision Information

  • Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: . Accessed June 5, 2013.

  • Bladder cancer. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: . Updated March 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.

  • What you need to know about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at . Updated August 30, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2013.

  • 12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Zhu Z, Wang X, et al. Risk of bladder cancer in patients with diabetes mellitus: an updated meta-analysis of 36 observational studies. BMC Cancer. 2013 Jun 26;13:310.