Published On: 11/10/2017

Most people know about the effects of smoking on the lungs, but did you know that smoking is also a leading risk factor for the development of bladder cancer and other bladder conditions such as urinary incontinence and painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis? And, according to the American Cancer Society, smokers are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers.

“What many people do not realize is that the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke are absorbed into the blood, pass through the kidneys, and collect in the urine that is stored in the bladder. These chemicals cause damage to the inside of the bladder and increase the chances of getting bladder cancer and other bladder diseases,” explained Rian Dickstein, M.D., F.A.C.S., director of the Bladder Cancer Program at Chesapeake Urology.  “Quitting smoking is the number one thing a person can do to help prevent bladder cancer and also help avoid recurrence of this disease.”

In addition to bladder cancer, smoking has negative effects on individuals living with other bladder conditions such as:

  • Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome. IC is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder lining that causes pain and pressure in the pelvic area around the bladder. IC is most common in women, affecting up to eight million young and older women in the U.S. every year. Smoking and the chemicals in tobacco are known bladder irritants and may make the symptoms of IC, such as pain, urinary frequency and urgency, worse.

  • Urinary incontinence. Chemicals present in cigarette smoke are bladder irritants. Smoking has been shown to exacerbate the symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) including urinary urgency and frequency. In addition, many longtime smokers experience “smoker’s cough,” or a persistent cough, which can lead to urine leakage often associated with stress urinary incontinence (SUI).

“We understand that quitting smoking is very difficult,” added Dr. Dickstein. “We work with patients to provide resources for quitting to help people improve their bladder health and lead a healthier lifestyle.”


Access Chesapeake Urology’s “You Can Quit Tobacco” pamphlet for information and help with quitting smoking:


Learn more about bladder cancer and the resources available to diagnose and treat the disease -


Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network: