Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

While not all of the risk factors for bladder cancer are understood, doctors know that certain behaviors and environmental exposures can increase someone’s risk for getting bladder cancer.  Some are impossible to avoid, while you have control over others. Smoking is often a leading cause of bladder cancer, as it introduces toxins into the bladder, while exposure to certain chemicals at work is another potential cause. Heredity, age, gender and race may also play a role in your risk for bladder cancer, and it is important to rule out what is causing your symptoms to determine if bladder cancer is the cause. Common bladder cancer risks include:

Read our Environmental Risk Factors Fact Sheet

Descargar nuestro folleto Factores de Riesgo Ambientales del Cáncer de Vejiga


“Smoking is a leading cause of bladder cancer
Smoking is a leading cause of bladder cancer

Smoking is the greatest risk factor, and the one that you have the most control over. Smokers are diagnosed with bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke. If you are  a current smoker with bladder cancer, get tips on smoking cessation. You can also read this article about Smoking Cessation and Cancer Survivorship published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Learn more about e-cigarettes, smoking, and bladder cancer by watching this webinar. There are many resources to help you quit smoking.

Chemical exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals, usually in the workplace, is linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer in people. The chemicals used in making dye, and chemicals labeled aromatic amines may produce a higher risk for bladder cancer if exposed in your job or hobbies. Some common areas where these types of chemicals are found include rubber making, leather, printing materials, textiles, and certain paint products. Other chemicals in your home or work environment can also increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. For example, polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFAS found in the blood of people and animals may increase health risks, including bladder cancer.  If you are concerned about your risk of bladder cancer risk factors based on chemical exposure, it’s important to learn more about what chemicals you have been exposed to on a consistent basis at work.


Although the reason is not clear, Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder than African Americans or Hispanics. Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer. Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans are often diagnosed at a later stage with bladder cancer. While you have no control over your race, understand the risks associated with different races.


As you get older, the risk of bladder cancer increases. While bladder cancer is more common in older people, adults of any age may develop the disease.


Though men get bladder cancer more often than women, recent statistics show an increase in the number of women being diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of bladder cancer are similar to those of other gynecologic and urinary diseases affecting women, women may be diagnosed when their disease is at a more advanced stage.

For emerging evidence that suggests that sex (gender) influences the ability of bladder cancers to establish and/or proliferate, watch the Biologic Sex Differences in Bladder Cancer recording.

Chronic bladder inflammation

Urinary infections, kidney stones, and bladder stones are not a cause of bladder cancer, but they are linked to the disease. They may a symptom that something more serious could be going on and should be evaluated by a physician.

Personal history of bladder cancer

If you have had bladder cancer in the past, you are at risk for developing another cancerous tumor in your urinary system. Once you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer and treated, you will be monitored over the years to make sure new tumors don’t develop.

Birth defects of the bladder 

Very rarely, a connection between the navel or belly button and the bladder called the urachus, doesn’t disappear as it should before birth. That connection can become a rare form of bladder cancer known as urachal cancer.


Arsenic is a dangerous chemical that has been linked to a higher chance of getting bladder cancer when arsenic is found in drinking water. Learn more about water pollutants and bladder cancer.

Earlier cancer treatment

Some drugs (in particular Cytoxan/cyclophosphamide) or radiation used to treat other cancers can increase the risk of bladder cancer. While you want to make sure you get the treatment you need for existing cancer, understand that this is a risk factor for developing bladder cancer in the future.

While you can’t eliminate your risk of bladder cancer, you can make some changes to your life that will help you stay healthier. Increase your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables. Reduce or eliminate your exposure to harmful chemicals whenever possible. If you are a smoker, it is time to quit by getting the right support in place to quit smoking successfully.

More information about bladder cancer risk factors

If you would like more information on bladder cancer risk factors, we invite you to view our webinar, Bladder Cancer – Risks and Prevention.