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Cancer Snapshots: Disease Focused and Other Snapshots

  • Posted: 12/02/2013

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A Snapshot of Bladder Cancer

Incidence and Mortality

While 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. Men are about four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with bladder cancer. Since 1998, 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 exposure to chemicals in the workplace (rubber, paint, hairdressing chemicals), taking certain chemotherapy drugs, and arsenic contamination in drinking water. There is no standard or routine screening test for bladder cancer, but two tests, cystoscopy and urine cytology, may be used in patients who have previously had bladder cancer. Standard treatments for bladder cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy.

It is estimated that approximately $4.0 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on bladder cancer treatment.

Line graphs showing U.S. Bladder Cancer Incidence and mortality per 100,000, by race and ethnicity, between 1990-2010.  In 2010, 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.

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 2012.  Biology, 23%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 23%.  Prevention, 5%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 15%.  Treatment, 24%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 8%.  Scientific model systems, 2%.
  • A genetic variant that is associated with increased bladder tumor expression of prostate stem cell antigen generates a protein that is a potential therapeutic target. Published December 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Loss of the SPARC protein promotes bladder cancer growth and metastasis. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Intravesical delivery of a combination of chemotherapy drugs may prevent localized bladder cancer from progressing to metastatic disease. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Former smokers, even those with a moderate history of smoking, have an increased risk of bladder cancer for many years after quitting smoking. Published March 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to bladder cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.

Trends in NCI Funding for Bladder Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) investment2 in bladder cancer research decreased slightly from $24.1 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $23.4 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $3.1 million in bladder cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Bar graph of NCI Bladder Cancer Research Investments in 2008-2012: Fiscal year (FY) 2008, $24.1 million Bladder Cancer Funding of $4.83 billion Total NCI Budget. 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.

Additional Resources for Bladder Cancer


  • 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, 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.