by EBSCO Medical Review Board

A risk factor is something that raises a person's chances of getting a disease or health problem. A person can have bladder cancer with or without the risks below. The more risks a person has, the greater the chances are.

Some risks cannot be changed such as gender or genes. Bladder cancer is more common in men than women. The risk of bladder cancer also increases with age. The number of people with bladder cancer rises sharply after age 55. How genes work can also play a role:

  • Certain problems in your genes program cells to grow without control. Some do not break down toxins. This allow them to buildup in the bladder.
  • Family history of bladder or other cancers.
  • Structural problems in the bladder or urinary system since birth.

Other things that raise the risk of bladder cancer are:


Smoking is the linked to nearly half of all bladder cancers. Cancer-causing agents from smoking stay in the bladder until passed in urine. The agents irritate the inside lining of the bladder.

Exposures at Work

Certain jobs involve working with harmful substances. These greatly raise the risk of bladder cancer. These jobs carry the highest risk are:

  • Painting
  • Dye, leather, paper, rubber, and metal working
  • Hair styling—this includes barbers
  • Plumbing
  • Dry cleaning
  • Working with tar and asphalt
  • Truck driving

Bladder Problems

Cancer is more likely to start and grow in places with frequent irritation. This can happen with:

  • Bladder stones —Caused by a buildup of minerals in the bladder. Some stones travel from the kidney. Retained bladder stones can cause bladder problems.
  • Infections —Create a place where the bladder is frequently irritated. Infections can also be from certain parasites that live in the bladder. These infections are linked to a higher chance of a certain type of bladder cancer. Though very rare in the US, it is common in the tropics.
  • Previous bladder cancer —It is common for bladder cancer to come back, even after treatment.

Medical Treatment

Doctors weigh the risk and benefits for tests and treatments. Some of them may raise the risk of bladder cancer:

  • Long-term use of a bladder catheter—A bladder catheter is a tube used to drain the bladder of urine. Catheters left in for long periods of time cause irritation. They can lead to infections.
  • Cyclophosphamide is a drug used to treat cancers and immune system problems. This drug is harmful to the bladder.
  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis. The bladder is near many structures in the pelvis. Radiation aimed in this area may raise the risk of bladder cancer
  • Taking pioglitazone for more than one year is linked to a high risk of bladder cancer. It is used to treat type 2 diabetes .


Obesity is linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer.


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Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed March 30, 2022.

Can bladder cancer be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 30, 2022.

Cumberbatch MGK, Jubber I, et al. Epidemiology of bladder cancer: a systematic review and contemporary update of risk factors in 2018. Eur Urol. 2018;74(6):784-795.

General information about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 30, 2022.

SEER stat fact sheets: Bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at Accessed March 30, 2022.

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