With up to 80 percent of all bladder cancer cases diagnosed in the earliest stages, many patients are left wondering how they got this disease. There's no easy answer.
While it's not yet known what causes this disease, medical researcher point to every day occurrences like smoking, chemical exposure, and chronic bladder infections as bladder-cancer links.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of bladder cancer increases with age. People over age 70 develop the disease two to three times more often than the younger population. In 2012, about 56,000 men and 18,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with this cancer.
Recently, researchers also found that patients taking the type-2 diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone) for more than a year have a 40 percent increased risk of bladder cancer over those taking other diabetes medications.
The connection between the diabetes drug and bladder cancer came following the five-year analysis of a 10-year study completed by the drug manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The results show that there is an increased risk among those taking the drug the longest.
Since that study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has not decided that Actos increases the risk of bladder cancer. Instead, it has launched an ongoing safety review of the drug. FDA scientists are urging Actos patients to continue taking the drug unless otherwise informed by their doctors.
Other studies have also shown a connection between Actos and bladder cancer. Drug regulators in France and Germany pulled Actos from the shelves following a French study that suggested a link between the drug and bladder cancer. Still, many U.S. physicians are heeding with caution. One doctor said the well-known risk of letting blood sugar remain high is far worse than the theoretic risk of bladder cancer. In addition, there are a host of other environmental factors that can cause bladder cancer.
A risk factor doesn't automatically mean that one thing causes the other. Instead, it implies that there are certain factors that could suggest a correlation. Many people who have bladder cancer risk factors never get the disease. Often, lifestyle changes can lower your risk.