Glucocorticoid therapy and risk of bladder cancer

Br J Cancer. 2009 Oct 20;101(8):1316-20. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605314. Epub 2009 Sep 22.


Background: Use of immunosuppressive drugs post organ transplantation, and prolonged use of glucorticoids for other conditions have been associated with subsequent risk of certain malignancies, that is, skin cancers and lymphoma. There is evidence that the incidence of bladder cancer is also elevated among organ transplant recipients, however, it is unknown whether other groups of patients, that is, those taking oral glucocorticoids, likewise are at an increased risk.

Methods: In a population-based case-control study in New Hampshire, USA, we compared the use of glucocorticoids in 786 bladder cancer cases and in 1083 controls. We used unconditional logistic regression analysis to compute adjusted odds ratios (ORs) associated with oral glucocorticoid use.

Results: In our analysis, the risk of bladder cancer was related to a history of prolonged oral glucocorticoid use (OR=1.85, 95% CI=1.24-2.76, adjusted for age, gender and smoking). Associations with oral glucocorticoid use were stronger for invasive tumours (OR=2.12, 95% CI=1.17-3.85) and tumours with high (3+) p53 staining intensity (OR=2.35, 95% CI=1.26-4.36).

Conclusion: Our results raise the possibility of an increased risk of bladder cancer from systemic use of glucocorticoids, and a potential role of immune surveillance in bladder cancer aetiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / chemically induced*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents