When you think of smoking and cancer, you probably think of lung cancer. What you may not know is that cigarette smoking is responsible for up to half of all cases of bladder cancer.
We’ve all heard that smoking is bad for your health. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 harmful ingredients, many of which are known to cause cancer. But up to three-fourths of all bladder cancer patients are unaware that smoking is a serious risk factor for getting the disease.
The bladder is the organ in the abdomen where urine (or “pee”) is collected. Cancer of the bladder is caused when cells in the bladder grow out of control and form tumors. The most common type of bladder cancer grows in the cells of the inner lining of the bladder. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2010, over 70,500 new cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed and 14,680 patients will die from bladder cancer.
The exact cause of bladder cancer is not known, but research has shown that smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing bladder cancer. People who smoke are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as non-smokers. This is because the harmful chemicals in tobacco are absorbed from the lungs into the blood. Blood flows through the kidneys where impurities, including these chemicals are separated out and placed in the urine for removal from the body. The chemicals in the urine damage the inside of the bladder, leading to the increased risk of bladder cancer.
If you are a smoker, there is good news. Research also shows that if you stop smoking, the risk of developing bladder cancer drops by 40 percent in the first four smoke-free years. Researchers believe the number of cases of bladder cancer could be reduced if doctors were doing a better job of sharing the risks with their patients. Bladder cancer is most treatable when it is caught early. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about bladder cancer, especially if you smoke.