If one or more of your relatives has had bladder cancer, it's understandable to wonder if bladder cancer is hereditary. Population studies suggest that, overall, there could be an approximately two-times higher risk of bladder cancer if a close relative (i.e., parent, child, or sibling) has had bladder cancer. However, it must be kept in mind that this is a statistical risk over a population and does not correspond directly to a person’s individual risk. Having a family history of bladder cancer doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the disease.
Another aspect to consider is that family members may also share behaviors and/or environments that increase their bladder cancer risk, such as cigarette smoking or water sources high in arsenic. Although bladder cancer has been associated with an inherited gene mutation in some families, this is relatively rare. It is considered to be more common that the gene mutations leading to bladder cancer are acquired during a person’s lifetime (for example, because of occupational or environmental exposure).
What Causes Bladder Cancer?
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes most bladder cancers, but they are starting to understand how a range of different risk factors can lead cells in the bladder to become grow abnormally and become cancerous.
Bladder Cancer Risk Factors
A number of risk factors, some demographic, others relating to your environment and lifestyle, has been shown to increase your risk of bladder cancer.
- Smoking: According to the American Cancer Society, smokers are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers, and smoking contributing to around half of all cases.
- Being over the age of 55: Your risk of developing bladder cancer increases as you become older. About 90% of those with bladder cancer are over the age of 55.
- Being male: Men are about four times more likely to get bladder cancer than women.
- Being white: Whites have twice as much risk of receiving a bladder cancer diagnosis as African Americans and Hispanics.
- Working around chemicals: Certain chemicals6 applied in the rubber, textile, paint, print and dye industries can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer.
- Experiencing chronic bladder issues: Urinary infections, bladder stones, leaving a catheter in too long and other causes of ongoing irritation might increase your bladder cancer risk.
- Having a history of bladder cancer: Those who have had bladder cancer in the past are at risk of recurrence.
- Not drinking enough fluids: Individuals who do not drink enough water every day may not flush toxins from their bladder as often as those who get adequate fluids. The longer toxins stay in the bladder, the more time they have to do damage.
How Do Bladder Cells Become Cancerous?
A cell can begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous when an acquired gene mutation leads to a permanent change in its DNA. Environmental factors such as tobacco smoke can lead to acquired mutations. An acquired mutation may also occur as your body creates new cells.
It’s important to note that individual gene mutations may or may not lead to disease. A single mutation, or even a sequence of mutations, doesn’t necessarily translate to cancer. However, when mutations accumulate in critical genes, they may lead to disease. Some of these genes, called oncogenes, help cells divide and grow. Other genes, known as tumor suppressor genes, control cell division and fix errors in DNA.
If mutations modify the behaviour of oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, cells can begin to divide uncontrollably and grow to form a tumor which can then spread into nearby tissue.
The gene mutations that lead to bladder cancer differ person-to-person. Acquired mutations in certain genes, such as the TP53 or RB1 tumor suppressor genes and the FGFR and RAS oncogenes, are thought to be important in the development of some bladder cancers. Changes in these and similar genes may affect the likelihood the tumour will grow and spread.
Researchers can detect the presence of gene mutations by testing specific molecular biomarkers, or biological indicators, which can be found and measured in the blood, tissues or other bodily fluids like urine. Emerging methods are also increasingly incorporating genetic sequencing to classify tumours into molecular subtypes, in order to determine patient risk profiles and personalise treatment.
How to Lower Your Bladder Cancer Risk
Though you can’t affect risk factors like your age, ethnicity and gender; you can control elements of your lifestyle. Here are some tips to reduce your risk.
- Quit smoking: One of the best things you can do to prevent bladder cancer is to quit smoking. While doing so can be a challenge, especially if you've smoked for decades, there are plenty of available resources to help you kick the habit for good. You might use the Department of Health and Human Services' free text messaging app for advice and encouragement or reach out to your doctor for assistance.
- Eat a healthy diet: A nutritious diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help your cells repair themselves and lower your risk of various forms of cancer. Avoid eating processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon, which may increase the risk of bladder cancer.
- Drink lots of water: The average adult male should drink at least 15 cups of water a day, while a woman should have 11. If you're exercising or sweating due to hot weather, you'll need to increase your water intake accordingly. You may need more or less fluid than the average adult, depending on your health. Therefore, it's a good idea to speak with your doctor to determine the amount that's right for you.
- Limit your exposure to harsh chemicals: If your job requires working around or with harmful chemicals, make sure to follow all safety precautions to reduce your exposure as much as possible.
If You’re Concerned About Bladder Cancer, Ask Your Doctor About Cxbladder
Cxbladder is a non-invasive and easy-to-use genomic urine test that quickly and accurately detects or rules out bladder cancer. The test works at a molecular level, measuring five biomarker genes to detect the presence or absence of bladder cancer.
When should you use Cxbladder?
- When you’ve seen blood in your urine (blood in urine or hematuria is the most common symptom of bladder cancer)
- If tests reveal you have blood in your urine (it may not be visible)
- When you’re being monitored for recurrent bladder cancer
Cxbladder outperforms other urine-based tests in the detection bladder cancer, and can improve overall detection accuracy when combined with other forms of testing.
It’s also important to realise the majority of symptomatic and post-treatment surveillance patients do not have bladder cancer. Cxbladder enables the accurate rule out of patients presenting with blood in urine (hematuria) and those being monitored for recurrence, reducing the need for further invasive tests.
Learn more about Cxbladder Contact us for more information