Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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
Diet: People whose diets include large amounts of
fried meats and animal fats are thought to be at higher risk of bladder
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. You cannot do anything about the following risk factors for bladder cancer:
Age: Seniors are at the highest risk of developing
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
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.