Causes and prevention of bladder cancer

The exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown. But there are things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease. These include:

  • Cigarettes: Smoking is the biggest risk factor for bladder cancer. The chemicals in cigarettes damage the lining of the bladder, causing cancer.
  • Age: The risk of bladder cancer increases with age. Most bladder cancers occur in men and women over the age of 50. It is rarely seen in those under the age of 40.
  • Race: White men and women are slightly more at risk.
  • Gender: Bladder cancer occurs in more men than women.
  • Chemicals: Certain chemicals once used in the dye, rubber, paints, plastics and gasworks industries can lead to bladder cancer. These chemicals have long been banned and are no longer in use.
  • Infections: Your risk of bladder cancer increases if you have repeated urinary tract infections or bladder stones. An untreated infection with the parasite schistosoma (also called bilharzia) can lead to bladder cancer. This parasite is often found in water in the developing world.
  • Previous treatment for cancer: If you were previously treated for cancer with radiotherapy to the pelvic area or with the chemotherapy drug, cyclophosphamide, your risk may be higher.
  • Medical history: If you had a previous bladder cancer, you are more at risk of developing another one.

If you feel you may be at risk, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she may advise you to visit a specialist.

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm