Maine Cancer Registry - Bladder Cancer: Risk Factors, Prevention & Early Detection

Bladder Cancer in the U.S.

Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States. According to the 2006 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, an estimated 61,420 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with bladder cancer and 13,060 people will die from this disease annually. Bladder cancer is most commonly found in white men over age 65. White men get bladder cancer almost twice as often as non-white men do. Bladder cancer is about four times more common in men than women. It is the fourth most common cancer among men and the 9th most common among women. Despite a slow increase in the bladder cancer incidence rate from 1975-1987, the rate has been fairly stable since then. The mortality rate from bladder cancer has shown a general decline from 1975 to 1987, but has changed very little since. Internationally, the incidence of bladder cancer varies about 10-fold. The disease is reported most often in Western Europe and North America and least often in Eastern Europe and several areas of Asia.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

  • In the United States, it is believed that smoking plays a role in almost half of the bladder cancers among men and a third of cases among women. Cigarette smokers are 2-3 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers.
  • As early as 1895, it was known that bladder cancer occurred at higher rates among workers exposed to dyestuffs. Two of these chemicals, benzidine and 2-naphthylamine, are now known to be potent bladder carcinogens in humans and are no longer used.
  • Today 25% of bladder cancer may still be associated with some occupations, including: rubber and leather workers, painters, drivers of trucks and other motor vehicles, aluminum workers, machinists, chemical workers, printers, metal workers, hairdressers, and textile workers.
  • Exposure to arsenic, a naturally occurring chemical in rocks, soil, and the water in contact with them, can increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.

Prevention of Bladder Cancer

  • The single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer is to stop smoking all kinds of tobacco (cigarettes, pipes and cigars).
  • People in higher-risk occupations should follow recommendations for protecting themselves in the work place.
  • People using well water for drinking should have it tested for arsenic.

Early Detection of Bladder Cancer

Why is it important?

  • Cases detected early (local disease) have about a 94% chance of living for at least five more years.
  • Cases detected at the distant stage (when disease has spread to another part of the body) have only a 6% chance of living for five more years.

How to Improve your Chances of Detecting Bladder Cancer Early

There are no screening tests for people who don't have symptoms. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see your health care provider:

  • Blood in the urine (giving it a red or pink color)
  • Having to urinate more often than usual
  • Repeated bladder infections

Arsenic in Drinking Water

  • The EPA recommends arsenic levels below 10 micrograms per liter of water.
  • For additional information about testing your water for arsenic, call the Maine Drinking Water Program at (207) 287-2070.

For information on bladder cancer statistics in Maine, please see MCR's Annual Reports.