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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions     A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®

Bladder cancer

Reviewed January 2007

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is a disease in which certain cells in the bladder become abnormal and multiply without control or order. The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine until it is ready to be excreted from the body. The most common type of bladder cancer begins in cells lining the inside of the bladder and is called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).

Bladder cancer may cause blood in the urine, pain during urination, frequent urination, or the feeling that one needs to urinate without results. These signs and symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer, however. They also can be caused by noncancerous conditions such as infections.

How common is bladder cancer?

In the United States, bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the ninth most common cancer in women. About 45,000 men and 17,000 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.

What are the genetic changes related to bladder cancer?

As with most cancers, the exact causes of bladder cancer are not known; however, many risk factors are associated with this disease. Many of the major risk factors are environmental, such as smoking and exposure to certain industrial chemicals. Studies suggest that chronic bladder inflammation, a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis, and some medications used to treat cancer are other environmental risk factors associated with bladder cancer.

Genetic factors are also likely to play an important role in determining bladder cancer risk. Researchers have studied the effects of mutations in several genes, including FGFR3, RB1, HRAS, TP53, and TSC1, on the formation and growth of bladder tumors. Each of these genes plays a critical role in regulating cell division by preventing cells from dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way. Alterations in these genes may help explain why some bladder cancers grow and spread more rapidly than others.

Deletions of part or all of chromosome 9 are common events in bladder tumors. Researchers believe that several genes that control cell growth and division are probably located on chromosome 9. They are working to determine whether a loss of these genes plays a role in the development and progression of bladder cancer.

Most of the genetic changes associated with bladder cancer develop in bladder tissue during a person's lifetime, rather than being inherited from a parent. Some people, however, appear to inherit a reduced ability to break down certain chemicals, which makes them more sensitive to the cancer-causing effects of tobacco smoke and industrial chemicals.

Related Chromosome(s)

Changes involving this chromosome are associated with bladder cancer.

  • chromosome 9

Related Gene(s)

Changes in these genes are associated with bladder cancer.

  • FGFR3
  • HRAS
  • RB1
  • TP53
  • TSC1

Can bladder cancer be inherited?

Bladder cancer is typically not inherited. Most often, tumors result from genetic mutations that occur in bladder cells during a person's lifetime. These noninherited genetic changes are called somatic mutations.

Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of bladder cancer?

These resources address the diagnosis or management of bladder cancer and may include treatment providers.

  • Genetic Testing Registry: Malignant tumor of urinary bladder (
  • MedlinePlus Encyclopedia: Bladder Cancer (

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of bladder cancer in Educational resources and Patient support.

General information about the diagnosis ( and management ( of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing (, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests (

To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about bladder cancer?

You may find the following resources about bladder cancer helpful. These materials are written for the general public.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for bladder cancer?

  • Cancer of the bladder
  • Malignant tumor of urinary bladder
  • Urinary bladder cancer

For more information about naming genetic conditions, see the Genetics Home Reference Condition Naming Guidelines ( and How are genetic conditions and genes named? ( in the Handbook.

What if I still have specific questions about bladder cancer?

Ask the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (

What glossary definitions help with understanding bladder cancer?

cancer ; carcinoma ; cell ; cell division ; chromosome ; chronic ; infection ; inflammation ; inherit ; inherited ; neoplasms ; progression ; risk factors ; tissue ; transitional cell carcinoma ; tumor

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.


  • American Cancer Society: What Are the Key Statistics for Bladder Cancer? (
  • Bryan RT, Hussain SA, James ND, Jankowski JA, Wallace DM. Molecular pathways in bladder cancer: part 1. BJU Int. 2005 Mar;95(4):485-90. Review. (
  • Bryan RT, Hussain SA, James ND, Jankowski JA, Wallace DM. Molecular pathways in bladder cancer: part 2. BJU Int. 2005 Mar;95(4):491-6. Review. (
  • Buscarini M, Quek ML, Gill P, Xia G, Quinn DI, Stein JP. Molecular prognostic factors in bladder cancer. BJU Int. 2005 Apr;95(6):739-42. Review. (
  • Dinney CP, McConkey DJ, Millikan RE, Wu X, Bar-Eli M, Adam L, Kamat AM, Siefker-Radtke AO, Tuziak T, Sabichi AL, Grossman HB, Benedict WF, Czerniak B. Focus on bladder cancer. Cancer Cell. 2004 Aug;6(2):111-6. Review. (
  • Lindgren D, Liedberg F, Andersson A, Chebil G, Gudjonsson S, Borg A, Månsson W, Fioretos T, Höglund M. Molecular characterization of early-stage bladder carcinomas by expression profiles, FGFR3 mutation status, and loss of 9q. Oncogene. 2006 Apr 27;25(18):2685-96. (
  • Mhawech-Fauceglia P, Cheney RT, Schwaller J. Genetic alterations in urothelial bladder carcinoma: an updated review. Cancer. 2006 Mar 15;106(6):1205-16. Review. (
  • Oxford G, Theodorescu D. The role of Ras superfamily proteins in bladder cancer progression. J Urol. 2003 Nov;170(5):1987-93. Review. (
  • Smith ND, Rubenstein JN, Eggener SE, Kozlowski JM. The p53 tumor suppressor gene and nuclear protein: basic science review and relevance in the management of bladder cancer. J Urol. 2003 Apr;169(4):1219-28. Review. (
  • Syrigos KN, Karapanagiotou E, Harrington KJ. The clinical significance of molecular markers to bladder cancer. Hybrid Hybridomics. 2004 Dec;23(6):335-42. Review. (
  • van Rhijn BW, van Tilborg AA, Lurkin I, Bonaventure J, de Vries A, Thiery JP, van der Kwast TH, Zwarthoff EC, Radvanyi F. Novel fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutations in bladder cancer previously identified in non-lethal skeletal disorders. Eur J Hum Genet. 2002 Dec;10(12):819-24. (
  • Wolff EM, Liang G, Jones PA. Mechanisms of Disease: genetic and epigenetic alterations that drive bladder cancer. Nat Clin Pract Urol. 2005 Oct;2(10):502-10. Review. (


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Reviewed: January 2007
Published: February 1, 2016