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Am I At Risk for Bladder Cancer?

risk

There's no way to know for sure if you're going to get bladder cancer. Certain factors can make one person more likely to get bladder cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean that you will get bladder cancer. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and not get bladder cancer. Or you can have no risk factors and still get it.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Each time you agree with the statement, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to control that particular risk factor. It may seem difficult, but your efforts can have big benefits for your health and quality of life. Ask your doctors and your loved ones to help you think of ways that you can lower your risk for bladder cancer. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as your age and race. Others, such as smoking and exposure to certain chemicals, are factors you can control.

I smoke cigarettes.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for bladder cancer. People who smoke are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as those who don't. Statistics from the American Cancer Society show that smoking causes almost half of the deaths from bladder cancer in men, and almost one-third of the deaths from bladder cancer in women.

When you smoke, cancer-causing chemicals called carcinogens damage cells in your bladder. Here's how. Carcinogens from smoke enter the blood through the lungs. The kidneys filter the blood to remove these carcinogens and send them into the urine. The urine goes to the bladder, where it's stored until you urinate. This causes carcinogens to be concentrated in the urine. They can damage the cells in the bladder. Over time, these damaged cells may turn into cancer. The younger you were when you started smoking, and the more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing cancer. Some people believe that there is no reason to quit smoking because the damage has already been done. That's not true. Quitting greatly reduces your risk for cancer. And the longer you don't smoke, the more your risk decreases. So it's worth the effort to do all you can to become a nonsmoker.

I work or have worked with dyes, rubber, textiles, leather, paint, hairdressing, metal, printing, or trucking.

Exposure to certain chemicals, called aromatic amines or aniline dyes, can increase your risk for bladder cancer. Exposure to chemicals at work accounts for only a small percentage of bladder cancers. Still, if you work in the dye industry or as a hairdresser or truck driver, or if you work with rubber, textiles, leather, paint, metalwork, or printing, you may have been exposed to chemicals that may have put you at a greater risk for bladder cancer. Talk with your employer about risk factors involving chemicals. Make sure you follow the guidelines for working with chemicals safely. You may want to ask your primary care doctor about getting screened. If you have questions, call:

  • The Center for Construction Research and Training at (301) 578-8500, or go to www.cpwr.com

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at (800) CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), or go to www.cdc.gov/niosh

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at (800) 321-OSHA (800-321-6742), or go to www.osha.gov

I am white.

White people are twice as likely to get bladder cancer than African-Americans or Hispanics.

I am a man.

Bladder cancer occurs much more frequently in men than in women.

I am age 65 or older.

The risk for bladder cancer rises with age. It is rare for people younger than age 40 to get bladder cancer.

I have chronic bladder problems.

Infections in the urinary system as well as bladder stones have been linked to bladder cancer. This does not mean people with infections or stones will get bladder cancer. It just means that people with a history of these conditions have a higher cancer risk. Make sure you follow your doctor's recommendations to reduce the frequency of chronic bladder problems. You may also want to talk with your doctor about whether you should be screened for bladder cancer.

I have taken weight-loss supplements that contain the herb Aristolochia fangchi.

This Chinese herb is used in some weight-loss products and has been linked with bladder cancer. Herbs with A. fangchi are banned in Belgium, Canada, Australia, and Germany but are still available in the United States.

I have had bladder cancer before.

If you've had bladder cancer in the past, you have a higher risk of getting it again compared to someone who never had the disease. You need medical checkups on a regular basis, usually with your urologist. And you should follow your doctor's recommendations regarding follow-up visits. Talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk.

I have received certain chemotherapy drugs or had radiation directed at my pelvis.

Your risk for bladder cancer may be increased if you have received the chemotherapy drugs Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) or Ifex or Isophosphamide (ifosfamide). Your doctor may have you take mercaptoethanesulfonic acid, Mesnex® (mesna), with either of the chemotherapy drugs to reduce your risk. If you've had radiation directed at your pelvis, your risk may also be increased.

I have been exposed to arsenic in drinking water.

High levels of arsenic in drinking water has been linked with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The chance of being exposed to arsenic depends on where you live and whether you get your water from a well or from a system that meets the standards for arsenic content.