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Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine

Risk factors

Most scientists agree that these things affect the risk of bladder cancer. Some may apply to you, but others may not.

Family history
Tobacco use
Arsenic in drinking water
Workplace chemicals

Age and bladder cancer
The risk of bladder cancer goes up with age. Most cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 60.

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Sex and bladder cancer
Men have a significantly greater risk of bladder cancer than women. One possible reason for this is that men are more likely than women to smoke and to be exposed to chemicals, which are two risk factors for bladder cancer.

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Family history and bladder cancer
People who have a close relative (mother, father, brother, or sister) with bladder cancer have a higher risk of the disease. This is because some bladder cancer is linked to mutations (changes) in the genetic structure (DNA) of the body's cells that can be passed from generation to generation.

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Tobacco use and bladder cancer
People who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of bladder cancer. When they inhale tobacco smoke, chemicals filter into their urine.  Urine is stored in the bladder. These chemicals in the urine can cause cells in the bladder to become cancerous.

It doesn't matter how much a person smokes. Even if someone smokes 1 cigarette a day, he still has a higher risk of bladder cancer than a non-smoker. The more a person smokes, the higher the risk. Soon after quitting, the risk begins to drop.

People who smoke also have a higher risk of many other types of cancer, including leukemia and cancers of the lung, lip, mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, stomach and pancreas. Smokers also have a higher risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, bone loss (osteoporosis), emphysema, and bronchitis.

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Arsenic and bladder cancer
Arsenic increases the risk of bladder cancer in people who are exposed to it at work or through contaminated drinking water. Around the world, many people may be exposed to high levels of arsenic in drinking water. In the United States, the levels of arsenic are generally quite low; however, in certain states, like New Hampshire and Maine, people who drink well water may be exposed to higher levels of arsenic.

Workplace chemicals and bladder cancer
People who are exposed to certain workplace chemicals have a higher risk of bladder cancer. This is because some chemicals can damage the genetic structure (DNA) in the body's cells. This DNA damage can cause cells to become cancerous. For example, aromatic amines are one type of chemical used in the rubber, aluminum, and textile industries that have been linked to bladder cancer.

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