What are risk factors?

There are certain things that can affect the chances of developing bladder cancer. These are called risk factors.

Having a risk factor does not mean you will get bladder cancer. And not having risk factors does not mean that you will not get it.

Like other cancers bladder cancer is not infectious. You cannot catch it or pass it on to other people.

If you are worried about bladder cancer and would like to talk to someone, you can:


Bladder cancer is more common in people over the age of 60. It is less common in people under the age of 40.


Smoking may cause about 5 in 10 (50%) bladder cancers. Chemicals that can cause bladder cancer are found in cigarette smoke. These chemicals eventually go into the pee (urine) through the blood. They can damage the cells that line the bladder. Over many years, this may cause bladder cancer.

The longer a person smokes for and the more they smoke, the greater the risk.

Sex assigned at birth

Bladder cancer is more common in men than in women.

Exposure to chemicals at work

Exposure to certain chemicals can increase your risk of bladder cancer. These include chemicals previously used in dye factories and industries, such as:

  • rubber
  • leather
  • textile
  • printing
  • hairdressing
  • gasworks
  • plastic and paint.

Many of these chemicals are now banned and health and safety guidelines at work have improved. But it can take more than 30 years after exposure to them for bladder cancer to develop.

You may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit if you think chemicals at your work may have caused the cancer. The Department for Work and Pensions has more information about this. If you live in Northern Ireland, visit nidirect.gov.uk.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and untreated bladder stones are linked to a less common type of bladder cancer called squamous cell cancer.

Bladder schistosomiasis

An untreated infection called schistosomiasis, may cause bladder cancer. This infection is caused by a worm that lives in fresh water. This worm is a parasite. It is found in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. This infection is rare in the UK.


Having a catheter in for a long time can increase your risk for bladder cancer.

Previous treatment for cancer

People who have had radiotherapy to the pelvis have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.

People who have had the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide also have an increased risk. But the benefits of cyclophosphamide treatment far outweigh the risk of developing bladder cancer.


A drug called pioglitazone used to treat diabetes may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. This risk is small and may depend on how long you have taken the drug for and at what dose. 

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about this. Other medicines for diabetes are not linked to bladder cancer.

Family history

If you have a close relative who has had bladder cancer, you may have a slightly higher chance of developing it. This could be because people in the same family may share certain risk factors, such as smoking.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Ursula McGovern, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 November 2022
Next review: 01 November 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

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