About bladder cancer

What should people know about bladder cancer?

The bladder is part of the body's urinary system. The bladder stores urine before it leaves the body.

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer, excluding skin cancers, among men and the tenth most common cancer among women in New York State. Close to 4,000 men and almost 1,400 women in New York State are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. Annually, almost 700 men and almost 300 women in New York State die from this disease. It is estimated that one in 30 men and one in 90 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer sometime during their lives.

Who gets bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is more common in older people. In New York State, more than 70% of people newly diagnosed with bladder cancer are age 65 and over. Bladder cancer occurs more than three times as often among men as among women in New York State, and more than twice as often in Whites as among Blacks.

Bladder cancer is often diagnosed at an early stage, and survival is generally good. Reoccurrence of bladder cancer is also common. As a result, the prevalence of bladder cancer is high.

What factors increase risk for developing bladder cancer?

At this time, the causes of bladder cancer are not well understood. However, scientists agree that certain factors increase a person's risk of developing this disease. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking. Smoking is the most important risk factor for getting bladder cancer. People who smoke have more than twice the risk of getting bladder cancer as non-smokers. Scientists believe that smoking is responsible for between 30% and 50% of deaths from bladder cancer.
  • Workplace exposures. Exposure to chemicals in the workplace is the second greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Studies show that workers in the dye, rubber, textile, leather and chemical industries have a higher risk of getting bladder cancer. Substances in the workplace that have been linked with an increased risk of bladder cancer include aromatic amines (used in making dyes), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (combustion products found in soot), diesel exhaust, and cutting oils. It is believed that 20% of bladder cancers are associated with exposures in the workplace.
  • Certain cancer treatments. Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation, such as radiation treatment for other cancers, has been linked to bladder cancer. Treatment with the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide also increases risk of getting bladder cancer.
  • Arsenic. High levels of arsenic in drinking water increase the risk for bladder cancer. In the United States, safety standards limit the amount of arsenic in public water supplies.
  • Family history. Individuals whose relatives have had bladder cancer are at increased risk for developing the disease.
  • Personal history. People who have had bladder cancer are at higher risk of getting bladder cancer again.

What other risk factors for bladder cancer are scientists studying?

Some studies suggest that exposure to industrial solvents such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, as well as chemicals that occur as by-products of water chlorination may increase risk for getting bladder cancer. Individuals working in industries using these chemicals may also be at increased risk. The way in which a person's individual genetic makeup affects their risk of bladder cancer is also being studied. Additional research is needed to determine the role, if any, these factors may have in the development of bladder cancer.

What can I do to reduce my chances of getting bladder cancer?

To help reduce the risk of getting bladder cancer:

  • Do not smoke. If you currently smoke, quit. Avoid exposure to second hand smoke. For more information on quitting smoking, visit the NYS Smoker's Quitline at www.nysmokefree.com or call 1-866-NY-QUITS.
  • Be aware of workplace health and safety rules and follow them.
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of medical imaging, such as CT scans, with your health care provider to avoid unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation. This is particularly important for children.
  • Be aware of your family history and discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

How else can I reduce my risk for cancer?

  • Choose a healthy diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and eat less red and processed (e.g., bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs) meats. These actions may reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer as well as other diseases.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Talk with your health care provider about recommended cancer screenings.

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