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Could Your Job Increase Your Risk of Developing Bladder Cancer?

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with bladder cancer, you likely have questions about the cause of bladder cancer. It is normal to wonder if there was anything you could have done to prevent the disease. You may also wonder if the job you have or one you had in the past may have contributed to your diagnosis.

The answers are not always clear

Getting these answers is important to help you better understand bladder cancer and the treatment needed for the disease. What may be frustrating, however, is the answers are not always clear. Bladder cancer is complex and has many different causes. Exploring and understanding the various risk factors for bladder cancer can help you solve some of your questions.

What are these risk factors, which jobs may have more exposure, and how do some of these chemicals impact the overall outcome of bladder cancer?

What are risk factors?

When doctors look at the number of people with bladder cancer, they look at all factors that may have caused the disease. These factors are known as risk factors.1

Could I have prevented my bladder cancer?

There is no known way to prevent bladder cancer. You can have no identified risk factors and still get the disease. It is important to know that you did not cause your cancer.2

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Common risk factors

Anyone can be affected by bladder cancer. Those with known risk factors have an increased risk of developing the disease. Common risk factors for bladder cancer include:2,3

  • Smoking – Smoking is the most significant risk factor linked to bladder cancer.
  • Family history – You are at 2 times the risk of developing bladder cancer if a family member has had the disease. This includes your parent, sibling, or child.
  • Age – Bladder cancer is more likely to occur in those over the age of 70
  • Gender – Men are 4 times as likely to get bladder cancer than women
  • Medical history – Medical history comes into play as a risk factor for bladder cancer, including prior chemotherapy or radiation. A history of bladder problems, including frequent infections, also increases your risk.

Exposure to certain chemicals

Exposure to certain chemicals increases your risk of developing bladder cancer. One group of chemicals known as aromatic amines are especially harmful. Aromatic amines result from the manufacturing of plastics, chemicals, and other products.2,4

Other chemicals linked to increased risk of bladder cancer include:4

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Heavy metals
  • Mixed compounds

Some examples of where these chemicals are found include:4

  • Dyes, including hair dye
  • Diesel engine exhaust
  • Leather dust
  • Mineral oils
  • Combustion products (pollutants produced by burning fuel)
  • Herbicides and pesticides

Do some jobs increase the risk of bladder cancer?

Workers in jobs with exposure to aromatic amines are at an increased risk for developing bladder cancer. The industries that may increase the risk of bladder cancer include:2,4-6

  • Manufacturing
  • Textiles (making cloth or fabrics)
  • Steel or metalwork
  • Firefighting
  • Beauty (hair stylists)
  • Painting
  • Printing
  • Trucking

I was exposed at work. Does that mean I caused my cancer?

You did not cause your cancer. Cancer is complicated, and doctors do not understand how some people can be exposed to certain toxic chemicals and never develop cancer, while others get cancer.

Can aggressive disease be linked to chemical exposure?

Bladder cancer can be high-grade or low-grade. High-grade bladder cancer is more serious and more aggressive than low-grade bladder cancer.4

One study found that high-grade bladder cancer is more common than low-grade bladder cancer in workers in the steel and metal, engineering, and transport industries. People who work around diesel fumes are more likely to have high-grade bladder cancer than low-grade bladder cancer. This suggests that exposure to toxic chemicals may be a reason why some people get high-grade, aggressive bladder cancer. More studies are needed to support this.4

If you have questions about bladder cancer and risk factors, including your job, talk to your doctor.

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