Bladder Cancer: What You Should Know

Bladder Cancer: what you should know

Is there a Multiple Sclerosis Connection? Maybe…

A recent study that looked at health records of 53,984 people with MS and 266,920 people without MS in Canada found that people with MS had a 72% greater chance of developing bladder cancer than those without the disease. This increased risk may have to do with the fact that people with the disease are more likely to have urinary tract infections and use catheters, but more research is needed to confirm the study findings.

Limitations of the study include:

  • differences in health behaviors such as smoking, diet and physical activity
  • the impact or possible role of any specific MS-modifying therapies


Bladder Cancer Facts:

  • One in 42 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer during their lifetime.
  • It is three times more common in men than in women.
  • More than 16,000 people will die from the disease this year alone.
  • Nearly 74,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2015.
  • It is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.
  • It affects both men and women at any age.
  • Smoking is the greatest risk factor. Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as non-smokers.
  • It has the highest recurrence rate of any form of cancer—between 50-80 percent.

*American Cancer Society, Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network


What do Women Need to Know?

  • Although bladder cancer is more prevalent in men, women are more likely to present with more advanced tumors and therefore have a worse prognosis than men.
  • African American women present with the more advanced and aggressive tumors when compared to African American men, Caucasian men and women.
  • The number of women diagnosed with bladder cancer is rising.
  • Check out this article for a woman’s perspective on bladder cancer.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?

The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include irritation when urinating, urgency, and frequency of urination. Symptoms may be identical to those of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection and the two problems may occur together. If symptoms do not disappear after treatment with antibiotics, insist upon further evaluation to determine whether bladder cancer is present. Download and print this useful reference (PDF) that outlines signs and symptoms, provided by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN).  If you have any of these symptoms, go see your doctor.


What Changes Should I Make to Prevent Bladder Cancer or Decrease Chance of Recurrence?

Many people want to know if there are specific diet or lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their risk of cancer progressing or coming back. Here are the recommendations of the AICR:

  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Limit sedentary habits.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  • Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  • If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  • Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
  • Do not use tobacco products.

This webinar created by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network entitled “Debunking Myths about Nutrition and Bladder Cancer” is a valuable  resource.

Some topics discussed on the webinar:

To prevent recurrences:

  • Do not use tobacco products.
  • Follow the AICR dietary recommendations.
  • Hydrate (to dilute urine) and urinate more frequently.
  • Avoid charred meats to limit exposure to heterocyclic amines, any of various carcinogenic amines formed meat is cooked at high temperatures.

What about supplements?

  • There is very little evidence currently that supplements reduce risk of cancer. Nutrients taken in isolation are less effective because they lack the benefit of the synergistic effect provided by whole foods.
  • People are at an increased risk of deficiencies as we age and there are possible metabolic changes after a urinary diversion which is when the urinary bladder is removed (due to cancer, other medical condition, or because the organ no longer works), another method must be devised for urine to exit the body. Urinary reconstruction and diversion is a surgical method to create a new way for you to pass urine. If deficient or at risk of deficiency, taking supplements can be helpful, but exceeding the DRI is not recommended. Megadosing vitamins can be harmful. Speak to your physician or a registered dietitian if you have questions about specific vitamins, minerals or deficiencies.
  • Turmeric is a spice with anti-inflammatory properties that can confer direct protective benefit when taken in conjunction with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) an intravesical immunotherapy used to treat bladder cancer. Intake of 2-4 grams turmeric per day is required to obtain therapeutic benefit. Commercial turmeric products vary in their formulation. Milk enhances the absorption rate. High doses of turmeric can cause GI distress.

Bladder Irritants:

  • Avoiding citrus is important during intravesical therapies as the acidity or alkalinity of the urine can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the treatment. If not taking intravesical therapies there is no need to avoid them unless you find citrus to be a bladder irritant. According to Dr. Kamat, it won’t decrease cancer occurrences and it won’t accelerate cancer growth.


  • Research on artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, continues today. Currently there is no evidence to link aspartame to bladder cancer. It is fine to avoid aspartame containing products, but if given a choice between sugary beverage or an aspartame sweetened beverage (and water or an unsweetened beverage is out of the question), opt for the aspartame sweetened one.

Visit the American Institute For Cancer Research (AICR), the American Cancer Society, and Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and Shout out about Bladder Cancer for more information, research, and advocacy.



I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Greensboro, North Carolina. I help people overcome nutrition obstacles and help them meet their nutrition and wellness goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Hi, I’m Mona. I have been living with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) for over ten years. As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) I help others with MS to navigate the nutrition superhighway and make sustainable progress toward their unique wellness goals.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.