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What are the risk factors?

Research shows that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop bladder cancer. These factors include:

  • smoking – cigarette smokers are up to three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop bladder cancer
  • older age – most people with bladder cancer are over 60
  • being male – men are three times more likely than women to develop bladder cancer
  • chemical exposure at work – chemicals called aromatic amines, benzene products and aniline dyes have been linked to bladder cancer; these chemicals are used in rubber and plastics manufacturing, in the dye industry, and sometimes in the work of painters, machinists, printers, hairdressers, firefighters and truck drivers
  • chronic infections – squamous cell carcinoma has been linked to urinary tract infections (including parasite infections, although these are very rare in Australia) and untreated bladder stones
  • long-term catheter use – using urinary catheters over a long period may be linked with squamous cell carcinoma
  • previous cancer treatments – treatments that have been linked to bladder cancer include the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide (used for various cancers) and radiation therapy to the pelvic area (sometimes given for prostate and gynaecological cancers)
  • diabetes treatment – the diabetes drug pioglitazone can increase the risk of bladder cancer
  • personal or family history – an inherited gene may contribute to a small number of bladder cancers.

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Understanding Bladder Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in February 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Dr Anne Capp, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Marc Diocera, Genitourinary Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Peter Heathcote, Senior Urologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Adjunct Professor, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre, QLD; Melissa Le Mesurier, Consumer; Dr James Lynam, Medical Oncologist Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and The University of Newcastle, NSW; John McDonald, Consumer; Michael Twycross, Consumer; Rosemary Watson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria.