A Snapshot of Bladder Cancer

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Incidence and Mortality

Although urinary bladder cancer incidence rates are much higher in whites than in African Americans, mortality rates are only slightly higher, due in large part to the later stage at diagnosis among African Americans. Incidence and mortality rates for Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Asians/Pacific Islanders are lower than those for whites and African Americans. Incidence and mortality rates have changed very little for most racial and ethnic groups over the past 20 years, with the exception of African Americans, for whom mortality has been decreasing. Overall, men are about four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with bladder cancer. Since 2001, mortality rates have been stable in men and slowly declining in women.

Smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer. Other risk factors include having a family history of or gene mutations linked to bladder cancer, occupational exposure to certain chemicals used in processing paint, dye, metal and petroleum products, taking certain chemotherapy drugs, drinking well water contaminated with arsenic, taking the Chinese herb Aristolochia fangchi, and chronic urinary tract infections (including those caused by Schistosoma haematobium). Although there is no standard or routine screening test for bladder cancer, cystoscopy (a procedure used to see inside the urinary bladder and urethra) and urine cytology (a test to look for abnormal cells in urine) are used in patients who have previously had bladder cancer. Standard treatments for bladder cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy.

Assuming that incidence and survival rates follow recent trends, it is estimated that $4.1 billion1 will be spent on bladder cancer care in the United States in 2014.

Line graphs showing U.S. Bladder Cancer incidence and mortality per 100,000, by race and ethnicity.  , Incidence from 1991-2011 and mortality from 1990-2010 is shown.  In 2011, whites have the highest incidence followed by African Americans, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives.  In 2010, whites have the highest mortality, followed by African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. Additional statistics and charts are available at the SEER Web site.

Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Bladder Cancer

Selected Advances in Bladder Cancer Research

Pie chart of NCI Bladder Cancer Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2013.  Biology, 28%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 19%.  Prevention, 3%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 18%.  Treatment, 24%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 7%.  Scientific model systems, 1%.

Source: NCI Funded Research Portfolio. Only projects with assigned common scientific outline area codes are included. A description of relevant research projects can be found on the NCI Funded Research Portfolio Web site.


  • A genetic variant of the bladder cancer susceptibility gene SLC14A1 is associated with lower urine concentration, suggesting a possible link between urine concentration and susceptibility to bladder cancer. Published July 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • The microRNA miR-23b acts as a tumor suppressor in bladder cancer by suppressing bladder cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion promoted by the oncogene  ZEB1. Published July 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Mice fed a chemoprevention  agent, CP-31398, which stabilizes the tumor suppressor p53, have reduced tumor weights and reduced tumor invasion in a preclinical mouse model of invasive bladder cancer. Published August 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • An analysis of bladder cancer patients identified genetic variants that modify bladder cancer recurrence and survival, which may be used to guide personalized surveillance and treatment in patients. Published March 2014. [PubMed Abstract]

Trends in NCI Funding for Bladder Cancer Research

NCI’s investment2 in bladder cancer research was $20.3 million in fiscal year (FY) 2013. In addition to the funding described in the graph, NCI supported $3.1 million in bladder cancer research in FYs 2009 and 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Bar graph of NCI Bladder Cancer Research Investments in 2009-2013: Fiscal year (FY) 2009, $25.9 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $4.97 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2010, $22.6 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $5.10 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2011, $20.6 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $5.06 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2012, $23.4 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $5.07 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2013, $20.3 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $4.79 billion Total NCI Budget.

Source: NCI Office of Budget and Finance.

Additional Resources for Bladder Cancer

  • 1 Cancer Prevalence and Cost of Care Projections, in 2010 dollars.  
  • 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
  • Posted: November 5, 2014