Bladder cancer and smoking

Smoking is the number one risk factor for bladder cancer

Another reason to quit:  the link between smoking and bladder cancer

Do you know the number one risk factor for developing bladder cancer?

Smoking. Most people don’t associate bladder cancer and smoking but according to the American Cancer Society, smoking causes about 65% of bladder cancers in men and 20% to 30% in women.

Regular cigarette smokers – defined as those who smoked at least one cigarette a day for six months – have consistently shown in studies to have a two-to-three fold chance of developing bladder cancer compared to those who have never smoked.

Bladder cancer is the fifth leading cancer in the United States. Approximately 73,510 Americans are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year and 14,880 die each year of bladder cancer. Those are staggering numbers.

According to a study published in the Journal of Urology by Drs. James Montie and Seth Strope of the University of Michigan Health System, not many people know that smoking causes bladder cancer. In the study, only about one-third of adults surveyed connected smoking with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Why is smoking the number one risk factor in developing bladder cancer?

Tobacco is made up of more than 4,000 chemicals. Many of those chemicals are carcinogens, and carcinogens that are known to cause cancer. These carcinogens are absorbed through the lungs into the blood. From the blood they are filtered by the kidneys and concentrated in urine. From there, the carcinogens move with urine to the bladder, where they damage the cells that line the inside of the bladder. This increases the chances of developing bladder cancer.

Drink a lot of fluids and empty your bladder often to limit the amount of time carcinogens sit in the bladder. However, your best defense against developing bladder cancer, along with the many other cancers caused by smoking, is to STOP SMOKING.

There are many benefits to quitting that help you live a long and healthy life:

  • Twenty minutes after quitting smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • Two weeks to three months after quitting, your circulation improves, as does lung function.
  • One year after quitting smoking, you have cut your risk of coronary heart disease in half, and five years after quitting, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.

Don’t kid yourself

Smoking will be the most difficult and challenging habit to stop. Many smokers have a hard time quitting because of psychological dependency, defined as an intense desire to smoke. Psychological dependency sets in when the person’s thoughts, feelings and activities so revolve around smoking that it is extremely difficult for the person to stop smoking, or even to think about stopping.

But you can stop smoking. Successful quitting is not luck, but planning and commitment. Do not give up on quitting smoking if you have a relapse. Keep your eye on the prize, which is being healthy. Talk to your health care provider and develop a plan or strategy for quitting tobacco. There are many organizations that offer information, counseling and other services to help you quit. The U-M’s Tobacco Consultation Services offer a number of programs and individual plans tailored to help smokers quit. Tobacco Consultation Services is located at 2025 Traverwood, Suite A3, Ann Arbor, MI  48105 and their phone number is 734-998-6222.

Learn more

U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center: Bladder cancer

Medical News Today: Smoking causes half of all bladder cancer cases

American Cancer Society: Cancer facts and statistics

American Lung Association: Trends in tobacco use (PDF)

National Cancer Institute: Bladder cancer


CCC logo

At the U-M Multidisciplinary Urologic Oncology Clinic our patients are cared for by nationally recognized experts – urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and pathologists – as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants who specialize in the treatment of bladder cancer. Each member of our team is committed to the best possible treatment for our patients.


CCC 25 years button150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.