We do not know exactly what causes bladder cancer; however, a number of carcinogens have been identified that are potential causes, especially in cigarette smoke. Research is focusing on conditions that alter the genetic structure of cells, causing abnormal cell reproduction.
We do know that the following factors increase a person’s risk of developing a bladder cancer:
- Smoking: Smoking is the single greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers have more than twice the risk of developing bladder cancer as nonsmokers.
- Chemical exposures at work: People who regularly work with certain chemicals or in certain industries have a greater risk of bladder cancer than the general population. Organic chemicals called aromatic amines are particularly linked with bladder cancer. These chemicals are used in the dye industry. Other industries linked to bladder cancer include rubber and leather processing, textiles, hair coloring, paints, and printing. Strict workplace protections can prevent much of the exposure that is believed to cause cancer.
- Diet: People whose diets include large amounts of fried meats and animal fats are thought to be at higher risk of bladder cancer.
- Aristolochia fangchi: This herb is used in some dietary supplements and Chinese herbal remedies. People who took this herb as part of a weight loss program had higher rates of bladder cancer and kidney failure than the general population. Scientific studies on this herb have shown that it contains chemicals that can cause cancer in rats.
These are factors you can do something about. You can stop smoking, learn to avoid workplace chemical exposures, or change your diet.
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You cannot do anything about the following risk factors for bladder cancer:
- Age: Seniors are at the highest risk of developing bladder cancer.
- Sex: Men are three times more likely than women to have bladder cancer.
- Race: Whites have a much higher risk of developing bladder cancer than other races.
- History of bladder cancer: If you have had bladder cancer in the past, your risk of developing another bladder cancer is higher than if you had never had bladder cancer.
- Chronic bladder inflammation: Frequent bladder infections, bladder stones, and other urinary tract problems that irritate the bladder increase the risk of developing a cancer, more commonly squamous cell carcinoma.
- Birth defects: Some people are born with a visible or invisible defect that connects their bladder with another organ in the abdomen or leaves the bladder exposed to continual infection. This increases the bladder’s vulnerability to cellular abnormalities that can lead to cancer.
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