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During Bladder Cancer Awareness Month Comprehensive Cancer shares resources to help people learn about the disease and its risk factors.

Bladder cancer represents a significant health concern for the physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers, with thousands of individuals diagnosed each year worldwide. May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, providing a good time to learn more about the disease, along with ways to reduce its risk factors.

While the exact causes of bladder cancer remain complex, researchers have identified key factors that may contribute to its development. The following details these potential causes, examining some of risk factors that can be course corrected, as well as strategies to get that started.

Understanding Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer arises from the abnormal growth of cells lining the bladder, leading to the formation of malignant tumors. These tumors may originate from the innermost layer of the bladder, known as the urothelium, or from other cell types within the bladder wall. The most common type of bladder cancer is urothelial carcinoma, accounting for the majority of cases diagnosed.

While the precise causes of bladder cancer development are not fully understood, research suggests a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors may play a role. Researchers, like the ones at Comprehensive, remain relentless in their efforts to identify strategies for prevention and intervention.

Potential Causes of Bladder Cancer
As noted, while there is no certain/exact cause for bladder cancer, there are known risk factors. Some of these risk factors cannot be changed, but many of them can, which not only reduces risks for this cancer, but many others and for many other health issues.

Tobacco Use: Cigarette smoking is considered the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer, accounting for a substantial proportion of cases diagnosed. Carcinogens present in tobacco smoke (and many eCigarettes), are absorbed into the bloodstream and discharged through urine. During urination, they come into direct contact with the urothelial lining of the bladder. Prolonged exposure to these carcinogens may induce DNA damage and promote development of bladder cancer over time.

Occupational Exposures: Some occupational exposures to carcinogenic chemicals and industrial toxins have been linked to increased risks. Rubber manufacturing, dyeing, textile processing, and chemical production cause exposure to dangerous aromatic amines, benzene derivatives, and hazardous substances. Proper workplace safety measures and protective equipment may minimize exposure and reduce risks.

Environmental Factors: Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from air pollution, industrial emissions, and combustion byproducts may increase the risk of cancer, particularly in urban areas with high levels of pollution.

Age and Gender: Advanced age is a significant risk factor, with the majority of cases diagnosed in individuals over the age of 55. Men are also more likely than women to develop bladder cancer. The male-to-female ratio of incidence is approximately 3:1.

Genetic Factors: A small percentage of individuals have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Mutations in certain genes, such as those encoding for tumor suppressor proteins (e.g., TP53) or DNA repair enzymes (e.g., ERCC2), may increase susceptibility. Inherited conditions such as Lynch syndrome and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) have been associated with elevated risks, as well.

Chronic Inflammation and Infection: Chronic inflammation of the bladder, often due to recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) or other inflammatory conditions, may increase risks. Persistent irritation and inflammation of the urothelial lining can lead to cellular damage and DNA alterations, predisposing to malignant transformation.

Personal and Family History: Individuals with personal histories are at increased risk of developing the disease. A family history, particularly in first-degree relatives may lead to higher risks.

Reducing the Risk of Bladder Cancer
While certain risk factors, such as age, gender, and genetic predisposition, are non-modifiable, there are several strategies individuals can adopt to reduce their risk of developing the disease:

Avoid Tobacco/eCigarettes: The most effective way to reduce risks is to abstain from smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. For individuals who currently smoke, quitting smoking is associated with a significant decrease in risk over time.

Practice Occupational Safety: Workers in high-risk industries should adhere to strict workplace safety guidelines and use appropriate protective equipment to minimize exposure to chemicals and toxins.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking adequate fluids, particularly water, helps dilute urine and reduces the concentration of potentially harmful substances.  Maintaining proper hydration supports overall urinary tract health and reduces risks of urinary tract infections, which can increase bladder cancer risk.

Follow a Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential nutrients and antioxidants supporting overall health. This may reduce the risk of bladder cancer, as does limiting intake of processed meats, saturated fats, and refined sugars. Incorporating foods high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other phytochemicals may help bolster natural defenses against carcinogens.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer. Maintaining healthy weight through regular physical activity and diet can reduce risk of cancer. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and incorporate strength training exercises to promote optimal health.

Practice Good Hygiene: Maintaining good hygiene practices, such as practicing safe sex, wiping from front to back after using the bathroom, and avoiding prolonged use of indwelling catheters, can help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and other conditions that may increase bladder cancer risk. Proper hygiene habits support urinary tract health and minimize the risk of chronic inflammation and infection that can predispose to cancer development.

Undergo Regular Screenings: Individuals at high risk of bladder cancer due to personal or family history or occupational exposures, should get regular screening to detect early signs of the disease. Screening tests can include urine cytology, cystoscopy, and imaging studies such as ultrasound or CT urography. Early detection allows for prompt intervention and may improve treatment outcomes and prognosis.

Bladder cancer is a complex disease influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The good news is that by following guidelines above, reducing the risk for bladder cancer and other health issues is possible.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help
Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options for patients with bladder cancer.  To schedule an appointment with the team at Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.

The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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