How Can I Prevent Bladder Cancer?

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Bladder cancer is the fourth most common internal cancer in males. Men are three times more likely to get bladder cancer than are women. Some of the high-risk factors for bladder cancer in men are smoking, hypertension, obesity, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, having been treated for prostate cancer with chemotherapy or radiation, and genetic factors. Caucasian males have the highest bladder cancer risk factors. Despite these risks, did you know that eating a diet rich in raw cruciferous vegetables could help you in preventing bladder cancer?

Eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables helps in preventing bladder cancer. These foods contain high levels of glucosinolates, which break down as isothiocyanates (ITCs). According to the National institutes for Health, “ITCs inhibit the development of tumors in many of the experimental models investigated, and are being investigated as possible chemopreventive agents for specific human cancers.”

Cruciferous vegetables for preventing bladder cancer include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Arugula
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Collard greens
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard
  • Radish
  • Turnip
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress

Eating five or more servings a week of cruciferous vegetables may also prevent other cancers such as colon, liver, and lung cancer in addition to bladder cancer. Whenever possible, buy organic fruits and vegetables because they contain fewer pesticides than conventionally grown vegetables. Avoiding pesticides, which are carcinogens, is important to bladder health and preventing bladder cancer.

Eating your veggies is only one part of preventing bladder cancer. It is important to drink plenty of water as well. Fluid intake is an important factor in preventing bladder cancer. Researchers conducted a Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) of the association between fluid intake and bladder cancer. This 22-year study evaluated 47,909 male health professionals who were between the ages of 40 and 75 years at enrollment in 1986. Participants answered a questionnaire about fluid intake every four years. Researchers found that high total fluid intake (more than 10 ½ cups per day) was associated with a 24% reduced risk for bladder cancer among men.

Drinking plenty of natural fluids (not sodas!) makes perfect sense in preventing bladder cancer, since urine can sit in the bladder for hours. Waste products and possible carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) sit in contact with the bladder lining, causing damage. Drinking more fluids dilutes the urine and waste products. Plus, increasing fluids increases the need to empty the bladder more frequently, flushing harmful substances out more often.

Of course you’ll want to consider the other ways to keep your bladder healthy and prevent bladder cancer. Be sure to exercise regularly, keep a healthy weight, watch your blood pressure, and avoid smoking. Avoiding exposure to pesticides, as mentioned, as well as workplace exposure to chemicals from textiles, rubber, paint, and leather will help you in preventing bladder cancer.


American Association for Cancer Research. High fluid intake appears to reduce bladder cancer risk. 2011 Oct 24. Retrieved from ScienceDaily 2011 Oct 25

Conaway CC et al. Isothiocyanates as cancer chemopreventive agents: their biological activities and metabolism in rodents and humans. Drug Metab 2002 Jun; 3(3):233-55.

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