What causes bladder cancer?

Smoking accounts for 60 percent of all cases of bladder cancer each year. In this video, Simon Hall, MD, a urologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center and director of the Deane Prostate Health and Research Center, explains what else can cause bladder cancer.

We do not yet know exactly what causes bladder cancer, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. The following risk factors have been linked to bladder cancer:
  • Smoking
  • Some chemicals used in making dye
  • Race/ethnicity: Whites are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as are African Americans and Hispanics
  • Age: The risk of bladder cancer goes up with age
  • Chronic bladder inflammation
  • Personal or family history of bladder cancer
  • Bladder birth defects
  • Arsenic in drinking water
  • Not drinking enough liquids

There is no specific cause for bladder cancer. Risk factors, such as smoking, exposure to dangerous chemicals, genetic background, and long-term use of the diabetes medication pioglitazone may influence the development of bladder cancer, but no one knows for sure why it may happen. If the normally healthy cells in the bladder begin to grow abnormally, they could possibly cause a malignant, or cancerous, tumor. These damaged cells and tumors could grow and spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.