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Epidemiology and risk factors of urothelial (transitional cell) carcinoma of the bladder

Siamak Daneshmand, MD
Section Editor
Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, FACP, FASCO
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


Bladder cancer is the most common malignancy involving the urinary system and the ninth most common malignancy worldwide [1]. Urothelial (previously known as transitional cell) carcinoma is the predominant histologic type in the United States and Western Europe, where it accounts for approximately 90 percent of bladder cancers. In other areas of the world, such as the Middle East, non-urothelial histologies are more frequent, due at least in part to the prevalence of schistosomiasis.

Studies of urothelial bladder cancer have identified multiple risk factors, the most important of which are cigarette smoking and various occupational exposures. Numerous other factors have also been identified that may play an etiologic role in some cases of urothelial cancer, although interpretation of the evidence is frequently confounded by exposure to tobacco use.

The epidemiology and risk factors associated with urothelial cancer of the bladder will be reviewed here. Non-urothelial bladder cancer is discussed separately. (See "Non-urothelial bladder cancer".)


Incidence and prevalence — Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the world, with 430,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 [2]. In the United States, approximately 79,000 new cases and 17,000 deaths occur each year due to bladder cancer [3]. In Europe, there were an estimated 118,000 cases and 52,000 deaths in 2012 [4]. In developed regions such as North America and Europe, bladder cancer is predominantly urothelial.

From 1985 to 2005, the number of bladder cancers diagnosed in the United States increased by over 50 percent, while from 1975 to 1996 the five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with bladder cancer increased from 75 to 81 percent [5,6]. Mortality rates in several western European countries have shown similar downward trends over the last two decades, but are still increasing in some eastern European countries [7].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 31, 2017.
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