Bladder cancer: risk factors & prevention

Written by: Mr Neil Haldar
Published: | Updated: 31/01/2020
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK and affects around 10,000 people every year - primarily those over 60 years of age. Knowing the main causes may help you reduce your risk or even prevent you from developing the disease later in life. Mr Neil Halder, a leading urological surgeon based in Buckinghamshire, explains to us what the main risk factors for bladder cancer are and how small lifestyle changes can help you reduce your chances of developing the disease.

What are the main risk factors of bladder cancer?

The following factors may increase a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer:


  • Smoking and other tobacco use - it accounts for half of all cancers and is one of the most common risk factors. You are at a much higher risk of developing bladder cancer if you smoke.
  • Exposure to chemicals – chemicals such as aromatic amines, which are found in the dye industry, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in the metals, textiles and rubber industry are known to increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Chronic bladder infections – if you’ve had frequent urine infections causing inflammation of the bladder you may be at an increased risk.
  • Parasitic infections – squamous cell bladder cancer is more likely to develop if you have had some form of schistosomiasis - a parasitic disease. It is found in South America, Southeast Asia, some part of Africa and the Middle East.
  • Personal or family history of cancer – people who have already had bladder cancer or those with a first degree family member who has had the disease, are at an increased risk.


Knowing your risk factors may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.


It’s also important to note that some people who don’t have an obvious risk factor can develop bladder cancer and others, who have several risk factors, may never develop cancer.


How soon should someone start treatment?

The most important thing is to make a diagnosis. If you have blood in urine this should be investigated straight away. If bladder cancer is found, the treatment and the timing will depend on the type of tumour, and in particular, how aggressive it is (the grade of the tumour) and how far into the bladder it has invaded (the stage of the tumour).


Are there any lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent it?

The importance of diet and environmental pollutions potentially plays a role in bladder cancer. The following changes to your lifestyle could reduce your chances of developing the disease:


  • Take caution when using chemicals - Make sure you limit your exposure to oils, petrol and diesel. For example, by wearing gloves when refuelling your vehicle. If you work with chemicals, follow all safety instructions and wear appropriate protective gear.
  • Avoid smoking – cutting out tobacco smoke means chemicals can’t collect in your bladder. If you are struggling to quit smoking, speak to your doctor about a plan.
  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables – antioxidants can help protect you against developing cancer.
  • Avoid processed meats – cancer causing substances form in processed meat. Cut them out or drastically reduce them from your diet.
  • Maintain a high fluid intake – a high fluid intake is associated with a decreased risk of bladder cancer.


Are there types of food you should eat and any you should avoid?

Animal fats and processed meats are thought to increase your risk, whereas a diet that’s high in fruit and vegetables will reduce your risk.


As mentioned, make sure you maintain a high fluid intake, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoid processed meats.


Some studies have shown that probiotics, which help maintain the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, may help reduce your risk.


Are there any technology advancements in recent years to help detect it early?

Currently, imaging tests such as an ultrasound scan and/or CT scan are used so your doctor can examine the bladder. This involves the use of a camera on a small, narrow tube which is inserted through the urethra and allows a doctor to find any signs of cancer.


There are some new urine tests being offered to detect bladder cancer in a patient’s DNA but so far, the results have been inconclusive.


Book a consultation with Mr Neil Haldar by going to his profile and booking an appointment online.

By Mr Neil Haldar

Mr Neil Haldar is a leading consultant urological surgeon based in Buckinghamshire. After graduating from King's College Medical School in 1992 Mr Haldar went on to join the Oxford Junior Surgical training program. From there Mr Haldar was awarded by the Royal College of Surgeons the Allinson Foundation Research Fellowship in which he was able to undertake his Master's degree at the Nuffield Department of Surgery in Oxford. Once he completed his specialty urological training, Mr Haldar became the Clinical Lead in laparoscopic urology at the Buckinghamshire NHS Trust. 

Mr Haldar is well published in most aspects of urology, with a current focus on researching Enhanced Recovery Surgery. Mr Haldar's main clinical specialties include bladder, prostate and kidney cancer. He is also an expert in minimal access surgery and in 2008 was one of the first UK surgeons to perform a single incision transperitoneal and extraperitoneal laproscopic nephrectomy.

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