Damaged DNA and Cellular Apoptosis: The Story on Bladder Cancer in the Elderly

D'Arcy Little, MD, CCFP
Director of Medical Education,
York Community Services,
Toronto, ON

Munir A. Jamal, MD, FRCSC
Staff Urologist,
Credit Valley Hospital,
Mississauga, ON


Cancer of the urinary bladder is essentially a disease of the elderly. The median age at diagnosis is 69 years for males and 71 years for females, and more than one-third of cases occur in patients over the age of 75 years of age.1,2 The incidence of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder, the most common subtype of bladder cancer, accounting for over 90% of cases, is rising and currently ranks as the fourth highest new cancer diagnosis in men.3 However, the mortality rate of this disease has fallen over the last two decades.1 The following review article will address the epidemiology, natural history, clinical presentation, and treatment of this disease, with an emphasis on issues pertaining to elderly patients. (See Figure 1)

Bladder cancer is unique among human neoplasms in that it has been associated with several distinct etiological factors.4 Risk factors related to the development of TCC, in addition to age, include tobacco smoking and occupational exposures in the dye, rubber, textile, and leather industries.