Seeking new clues to bladder cancer

November 16, 2008 8:09:25 AM PST
it doesn't get a lot of attention, but bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for men. Doctors are trying to find out why it's more common, and how it can be prevented.

When Randy Hunter noticed blood in his urine, he did what most men do...he put off calling the doctor.

Hunter remembers, "I was the pig-headed male you know and also I was sort of nervous and scared about going to the doctors."

When he did see the doctor he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. At the time he was 42 years old, and had no risk factors, such as smoking.

Bladder cancer is three to four times more common in men than in women.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center are trying to figure out why. One reason could be hormones.

Dr. Edward Messing, a urologist, says, "There are growth factors, hormones like insulin and sex hormones that are excreted in the urine in gigantic concentrations."

In their studies, testosterone fueled the growth of bladder cancer in male mice. It's not clear if the female hormones- estrogen or progesterone are protective.

But the doctors are now looking to see if turning off the receptor for testosterone will lower the risk for bladder cancer. They want to see if drugs that block the hormone can help treat or prevent the disease.

Dr. Messing says, "I wouldn't go so far as to say that we know if they're going to work or not, but certainly it immediately opens up that possibility"

Again, the main risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking.

The five-year survival rate is 85-percent.. In an odd twist, although men are more likely to get bladder cancer...women are 80-percent more likely to die from it.

Blood in the urine is the main symptom, and should be reported to your doctor.