Anyone can get bladder cancer, but it’s most prevalent in males and older adults.

Bladder cancer, or cancer that develops in the urinary bladder, made up an estimated 4.2% of all new cancer cases in 2022. Anyone can get bladder cancer, but it’s most prevalent in males, as well as adults over the age of 65.

Read on to learn more about the prevalence of bladder cancer per age group, as well as the overall outlook, risk factors, and when you might consider seeing a doctor.

While bladder cancer may develop at any age, it’s most common in older adults as they age. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the median age of bladder cancer diagnosis is 73 years old.

Below is a breakdown of prevalence per age group based on data from the NCI and other research groups.

Under 20 years old

While it may be possible to develop bladder cancer at any age, this type of cancer is considered extremely rare in people under the age of 20. In fact, the NCI reports that this age group made up 0% of all new cases between 2015 and 2019.

20 to 34 years old

The risk of developing bladder cancer is rare but possible in this age group. According to the NCI, 20- to 34-year-olds comprised 0.5% of new cases between 2015 and 2019.

35 to 44 years old

As 2015-2019 data from the NCI shows, the risk of bladder cancer gradually increases with age, with 1.2% of new cases represented by this age group.

45 to 54 years old

About 5.2% of new bladder cancer cases reported between 2015 and 2019 by the NCI were comprised of this age group.

55 to 64 years old

As data from the same timeline reported by the NCI reveals, the risk of bladder cancer jumped significantly within this age group. It’s estimated that 17.9% of all new cases were adults ages 55 to 64 years old. Males are also much more likely to develop bladder cancer between 60 to 64 years old.

65 to 75 years old

The prevalence reported by the NCI nearly doubles with this age group. According to 2015-2019 data, 31.7% of all new bladder cancer cases were in adults ages 65 to 75 years old.

However, there’s also a gap between sex and bladder cancer incidence. According to 2016-2018 data reported by Cancer Research UK, males are 3.6 times more likely to develop bladder cancer over females ages 70 to 74.

75 to 84 years old

While bladder cancer is still more prevalent in this age group, the NCI noted a slight drop in newly reported cases. Within the same 2015-2019 data, 75- to 84-year-olds made up 28.8% of all new diagnoses. Overall, bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in males.

84 and older

Data from the NCI suggests a slightly lower percentage of bladder cancer in this age group, with adults over the age of 84 comprising 14.7% of all new cases between 2015 and 2019.

Bladder cancer may be detectable in its early stages due to some of the warning signs that may appear early. While some of the symptoms of bladder cancer may be similar to other conditions like a urinary tract infection (UTI), it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, see a doctor for help:

  • bloody urine that may be orange, pink, or reddish in color (this is the most common first sign of bladder cancer)
  • frequent urination
  • burning sensations or pain while urinating
  • trouble urinating
  • waking up at night to urinate more frequently

While bladder cancer has a relatively high survival 5-year survival rate, there are many factors to consider, including age, the stage of diagnosis, and your overall health.

For example, about 50% of all bladder cancers are detected during the “in situ” stage, meaning that it hasn’t spread outside of the bladder wall. This can mean earlier treatment and better prognosis.

According to the NCI, the median age of death with this type of cancer is 79 years old, and the cancer is not typically fatal in younger age groups. In 2016 to 2020, the total percentage of bladder cancer fatalities gradually went up with age, as follows:

  • Under 20 years: 0%
  • 20 to 34 years: 0.1%
  • 35 to 44 years: 0.4%
  • 45 to 54 years: 2.5%
  • 55 to 64 years: 10.7%
  • 65 to 74 years: 22.5%
  • 75 to 84 years: 31.6%
  • Over 84 years: 32.1%

Additionally, in cancer that has spread (metastasized), the estimated 5-year survival rate is 6%.

If you’ve recently received a diagnosis of bladder cancer, it’s important to follow a doctor’s treatment recommendations. This will help minimize the cancer from spreading to deeper tissues, lymph nodes, and organs while improving your overall outlook.

A doctor will also consider your age when making treatment recommendations. As one 2020 study notes, older adults may not be candidates for invasive surgeries or chemotherapy due to possible side effects.

Below are answers to some of the most common questions asked about bladder cancer and age that you may wish to further discuss with a doctor:

Can a 20-year-old get bladder cancer?

While possible, it’s rare for a 20-year-old to develop bladder cancer. Incidence rates in the 0 to 24 age group have also significantly decreased since the 1990s due to earlier diagnosis and reduced risk factors.

Despite the rarity in this age group, it’s important not to make assumptions about any unusual symptoms you may be experiencing and to see a doctor right away.

How rare is bladder cancer under 40?

Out of the total number of new cases reported by the NCI in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, bladder cancer diagnoses in ages 0 to 44 made up an estimated 1.7% of all new cases. Such numbers suggest the rarity of bladder cancer under the age of 40, but it’s also still possible.

How does bladder cancer progress?

Bladder cancer begins within cells that line that inner bladder wall. As the cancer progresses, it may spread to deeper layers in the bladder, and perhaps to nearby lymph nodes and other tissues. In 4% of cases, the cancer may spread to distant areas in the body.

Is bladder cancer always terminal?

Overall, bladder cancer is the 10th-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, the NCI also reported a 77% 5-year relative survival rate between 2012 and 2018. The outlook for this type of cancer is highly individual, but the survival rate is also highest in the early stages.

Bladder cancer is fairly common, ranking as the sixth most prevalent cancer diagnosed in the United States. While you may develop this cancer at any age, it’s most common in adults ages 65 to 74 years old. Among aging adults, males are also more likely to develop bladder cancer.

In 2022, the NCI estimated that about 17,100 people died from bladder cancer. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is critical at any age, as bladder cancer has the best outlook in its earliest stages. Speak with a doctor about all of your treatment options.