How Diet Affects Your Risk of Recurring Bladder Cancer

by Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

According to the National Cancer Institute, bladder cancer is often diagnosed during the early stages. While survival and recurrence rate are based on many different factors, your lifestyle and diet may have a huge impact on both your risk of developing bladder cancer and the likelihood of recurrence. While there is no evidence that a particular diet can reduce your risk, results from multiple studies suggest that there is an association between the incidence of bladder cancer and what we eat.

man milking cow

Dairy Products

Some research studies have linked the consumption of milk, cheese, and yogurt to a decreased risk of developing bladder cancer, though the results were not statistically significant. More research is needed to examine the relationship between dairy intake and bladder cancer recurrence.

green tea in cup next to kettle

Green Tea

The polyphenols found in green tea have cancer-fighting properties. While more research is needed to examine the role of green tea and bladder cancer, specifically, drinking green tea is believed to have a protective effect against cancer recurrence.

Citrus Fruits

Consumption of citrus fruits is associated with a decreased risk of bladder cancer. Include oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons in your daily diet to get an antioxidant boost.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Isothiocyanates, which are compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, have a role in both bladder cancer prevention and treatment. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and asparagus are good sources of these compounds, which can help inhibit cancer cell growth.

vegetables on a wooden table

All Other Fruits and Vegetables

The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce your risk for cancer, because they are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can attack free radicals that damage the DNA in your cells, leading to disease over time. Foods rich in antioxidants include carrots, leafy greens, berries, apples, and bell peppers. If you find it difficult to eat fruits and vegetables at each meal, consider juicing to increase your antioxidant intake.

woman's hand reaching in candy bowl

Limit Added Sugar

While sugar consumption is not directly linked to an increased risk for developing bladder cancer, several research studies have shown that sugar may increase your risk of some types of cancer. In addition, the empty calories in sugar can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for many types of cancer. Limit sweets and added sugars to reduce your intake.

Avoid Processed Meat

Research has found a positive correlation between processed meat intake and the risk of bladder cancer. Meats that have been cured, smoked, salted, or preserved with chemicals should be avoided. Examples include bacon, sausage, lunchmeat, and hot dogs. Choose meats labeled “uncured.”

Packaged red meats.

Limit Red Meat Intake

While red meat consumption has been linked to certain types of cancer, the results are still inconclusive for its link to bladder cancer. For this reason, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting intake of beef, lamb, and pork to no more than 12-18 ounces per week for all Americans to reduce cancer risk.

The Bottom Line

More research is needed to investigate the role of what we eat and the risk of bladder cancer recurrence. The largest body of evidence suggests that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain cancer-protective compounds, is the best way to avoid cancer and its recurrence. Fluids, coffee, and alcohol appear to have no significant influence on recurrence rate.

Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
Meet Our Writer
Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

Carmen is a Registered Dietitian. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she has spent her career working at Johns Hopkins and is also an adjunct faculty instructor for Excelsior College. Carmen has over 20 years of experience in nutritional counseling, education, writing, and program management and is a certified specialist in adult weight management. She enjoys educating her students and clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness.