It is possible to reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer. Some behaviors, such as avoiding smoking and maintaining a balanced diet, can reduce the risk of developing the condition.

Some risk factors, such as a person’s age and family history of bladder cancer, are unavoidable. However, a person can contribute toward bladder cancer prevention with certain lifestyle changes.

This article looks at bladder cancer prevention, risk factors, and more.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Bladder cancer occurs when bladder cells develop abnormally.

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains, this abnormal development results from certain changes in the DNA of bladder cells. Scientists call these changes “genetic mutations.”

Some people are born with genetic mutations that can cause bladder cancer. Others acquire genetic mutations during their lifetime. It is possible for some people to avoid acquired genetic mutations in certain cases.

Through lifestyle modifications and other changes, it is also possible to avoid certain bladder cancer risk factors. These are factors that increase a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer.

Learn about how common bladder cancer is here.

It is not always possible to avoid bladder cancer risk factors. The ACS notes several unavoidable risk factors for this disease. These include:

  • Ethnicity and race: Bladder cancer is around twice as common in people who are white compared with people who are African American or Hispanic. Researchers do not fully understand why this is.
  • Age: Older age is a bladder cancer risk factor. Around 90% of bladder cancer cases are in those over 55 years of age.
  • Gender: Males are far likelier than females to develop bladder cancer. Overall, males have a 1 in 27 risk of developing bladder cancer in their lifetime, while females have a 1 in 89 risk.
  • Bladder problems and abnormalities: Several chronic bladder problems are bladder cancer risk factors. These include chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, and schistosomiasis. Some congenital abnormalities of the bladder, such as exstrophy or urachus, are also bladder cancer risk factors.
  • Cancer treatments: Certain cancer treatments are risk factors for bladder cancer. These include radiation therapy to the pelvic area. Long-term use of cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug, can also increase the risk of bladder cancer. The need for these treatments may sometimes be unavoidable.

People with a personal or family history of bladder cancer may also be at a higher risk of developing the condition.

The following sections look at avoidable risk factors and what a person can do to reduce their risk of developing bladder cancer.

Learn more about causes of bladder cancer here.

Some risk factors for bladder cancer are avoidable. The most significant of these is smoking tobacco.

According to the ACS, people who smoke are three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who do not. Smoking tobacco causes around half of all such cancers.

A person may help prevent bladder cancer by avoiding or quitting smoking. They should also avoid secondhand cigarette smoke.

A 2016 review states that quitting smoking can reduce the likelihood of bladder cancer. However, even after 20 years of smoking cessation, past smokers still have a 50% increased risk of developing bladder cancer than people who have never smoked.

Find out what happens to the body after a person quits smoking.

According to a 2022 review, exposure to certain chemicals could cause bladder cancer. By avoiding exposure to these chemicals, an individual may reduce their risk of bladder cancer. The chemicals include:

Some people might become exposed to chemicals in the workplace. Workplace exposure to various products could be a risk factor for bladder cancer. These products include:

  • rubbers
  • leather
  • textiles
  • paints
  • dyes

This list may grow over time. For instance, the ACS notes that workplace exposure to diesel fumes could cause bladder cancer. Scientists continue to investigate chemical risk factors for bladder cancer.

If a person’s occupation puts them at risk of exposure to carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer), their employer must reduce that risk as much as possible.

Wearing protective gear and avoiding prolonged exposure can help reduce exposure risks.

According to the ACS, some medications and supplements could be risk factors for bladder cancer. Certain individuals might be able to avoid them.

One example is pioglitazone (brand-name version Actos), a medication for diabetes.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some studies have shown a possible link between the medication and an increased risk of bladder cancer. However, the FDA states that some studies have not found a correlation.

Another example is aristolochic acid, which occurs in several dietary supplements. Its use also correlates with an increased bladder cancer risk.

As the ACS also notes, an individual’s water-drinking habits could place them at risk of developing bladder cancer. For instance, anyone who drinks arsenic-contaminated water may be at a higher risk of the condition.

Additionally, insufficient fluid consumption appears to be a risk factor for bladder cancer. Although the link remains unclear, scientists speculate that people who drink more water may flush out more cancer-causing chemicals.

Diet and exercise might affect a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer.

The ACS states that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of bladder cancer. However, not all research suggests this to be the case.

According to a 2019 review, some individuals could reduce their bladder cancer risk by eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly.

However, the review authors stress that the evidence for these interventions remains weak. More studies in this area would help to clarify the link between diet and exercise habits and bladder cancer risk.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about bladder cancer prevention.

What foods help prevent bladder cancer?

According to the ACS, some research suggests that having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables might help protect against bladder cancer. However, not all studies have found this.

Regardless, maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet can have many benefits. It can also reduce the risk of some other cancers.

There is some weak evidence that fruits and vegetables might protect against bladder cancer.

Learn about the link between diet and cancer risk here.

What vitamins help prevent bladder cancer?

According to the ACS, researchers have not found that vitamins or supplements can help prevent bladder cancer. In fact, some supplements, such as beta carotene, may slightly increase the risk of bladder cancer.

The ACS also states that aristolochic acid — a substance present in several dietary supplements — could also increase bladder cancer risk.

Bladder cancer arises due to genetic mutations in bladder cells. Various risk factors can make these mutations more likely.

Some risk factors are unavoidable. These include demographic factors such as age, race, and gender. They also include medical factors such as bladder problems, cancer treatments, and a history of bladder cancer.

Other risk factors are avoidable. A person can lower their risk of bladder cancer by stopping smoking or not taking it up. Limiting workplace exposure to certain chemicals and products could also help.

Other potentially avoidable risk factors include taking certain medications, drinking too little water, and certain diet- and exercise-related factors.