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There are certain things that can affect the chances of developing bladder cancer. These are called risk factors. But having a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean a person will get bladder cancer, and people without risk factors can also develop cancer.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for bladder cancer. About 1 in 3 cases of bladder cancer may be caused by it. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes they smoke, the greater the risk.
Chemicals that can cause cancer are present in cigarette smoke. When smokers inhale, some of these chemicals get into the blood and end up in the urine after being filtered by the kidneys. The chemicals can damage the cells that line the bladder and, over many years, this may cause cancer.
Smoking also irritates the bladder, so stopping will help reduce some treatment side effects, as well as having other benefits to your health.
You might find it helpful to see our advice if you are thinking of giving up smoking|.
Bladder cancer is more common in older people. It’s rare for anyone under 40 to develop it.
Bladder cancer is more common in men than in women.
These include chemicals previously used in dye factories, rubber, leather, textiles, printing, gasworks, plastics, paints, and in other chemical industries. Many of these chemicals are now banned, but it can take up to 25 years after exposure for bladder cancers to develop. The Department of Work and Pensions| has information about the chemicals involved and claiming for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit|.
Repeated urinary infections and untreated bladder stones have been linked with a less common type of bladder cancer| called squamous cell cancer. People who are paralysed have more bladder infections and a higher risk of getting bladder cancer.
Radiotherapy| to the pelvis to treat another cancer, and treatment with a chemotherapy drug called cyclophosphamide|, can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
The risk of developing bladder cancer is slightly increased if you have a close relative who has had bladder cancer.
Cancer of the bladder isn’t infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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