Bladder cancer risk factors: Do Vitamin D and Marijuana Have Something in Common?

While bladder cancer is not the most common cancer in Australia, it still impacts many people and requires treatment to increase the chance of survival.   

Cancer research continues to focus on methods for prevention as well as treatments.    

Several studies have shown how a high level of vitamin D in the blood may help protect against bladder cancer. Now, it also appears that marijuana may play a similar role – which, while controversial, is an interesting development. 

Here, we’re looking into bladder cancer more deeply, including the risk factors and how vitamin D and marijuana might help to minimise the impact it causes patients.

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors  

There are numerous risk factors linked to developing bladder cancer. It is useful to understand each one, to know whether you are at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer based on your age, gender and lifestyle. 

The most common risk factors associated with bladder cancer are: 

  • Tobacco: When it comes to using tobacco and developing bladder cancer, cigarettes are the worst offender, although cigars and pipes also present a danger.   This is due to the toxins from tobacco coming into contact with the bladder after being filtered by the kidneys.  
  • Age: People aged 65 or over have a 70% chance of developing bladder cancer than their younger counterparts. 
  • Gender: The disease is considerably more common among men, with 1 in 4 likely of developing bladder cancer. However, when women are diagnosed with the disease, they are more likely to die from the condition. 
  • Occupation: Many workers come into contact with chemicals every day, such as hairdressers, mechanics, painters, metal machine operators, and miners, increasing their risk of bladder cancer. 
  • Chemicals: Exposure to arylamine chemicals and polycyclic hydrocarbons used in the plastics, rubber and petroleum industries can increase the risk of bladder cancer.  
  • Existing conditions: Diabetes, chronic bladder infections and bladder stones put you in a higher risk category for bladder cancer.  
  • Cancer history: If you have suffered from bladder cancer before, there is a strong chance of developing it again. 

Vitamin D And Bladder Cancer 

For a long time, we have understood the significance of vitamin D in supporting health. A fat-soluble vitamin, it helps the body retain calcium, which is essential or strong, healthy bones. Yet studies now show how vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth.  

In 2012, the Spanish National Cancer Research analysis of blood samples taken from 2,000 hospital patients revealed that those with the highest levels of vitamin D3 also had the lowest rates of bladder cancer.  A further study involving more than 89,000 participants and over 2,000 bladder cancer sufferers showed that high vitamin D levels in the blood were associated with lower bladder cancer risk.   

The link here could be down to how vitamin D plays a role in regulating the FGFR3 protein in the body, which is involved in the development of bladder cancer. For instance, in the Spanish study, patients with high vitamin D levels also had low levels of this protein.

Can Marijuana Prevent Bladder Cancer? 

As we know, marijuana is classed as an illegal substance in many countries including Australia. Yet, legalities aside, many researchers claim the plant has considerable health benefits if consumer correctly. 

Data from the California Men’s Study Cohorts involving over 84,000 participants showed that men who regularly smoked marijuana alone had considerably lower rates of bladder cancer than those who smoked tobacco, or both substances.   

It’s possible that this is due to a compound in marijuana that protects cells against cancer-causing mutations. However, more research is needed to show a definite link between marijuana and effective bladder cancer treatment or prevention. For example, the above study did not include any non-smokers as a comparison, making it inconclusive.   

Also, with tobacco a common cancer risk factor, patients ask us can smoking weed cause bladder cancer. Anyone considering marijuana as a means to preventing bladder cancer must also factor in this potential cause and think about ingestion without tobacco. 

Final Words 

There is definitely a case for both vitamin D and marijuana helping with preventing bladder cancer. 

Getting more vitamin D may lower the risk of bladder cancer. You can get more vitamin D through diet, supplements, or through more sun exposure (done cautiously to guard against premature ageing and skin cancer). While marijuana might help, it is worth remembering its legal status and how its use with tobacco may negate any potential benefits. 

Consider all the bladder cancer risk factors to support prevention. For instance, it’s essential to cut back or quit if you’re a tobacco smoker and opt for a healthier lifestyle. 

If you are concerned about bladder cancer or you are showing symptoms, you should consult your doctor or urologist for a diagnosis. 

Dr Katelaris is a leading urologist in Sydney, Australia.  

For any questions about bladder cancer or other urinary concerns, book an appointment with the team at Katelaris Urology today.