Prostate Cancer

Bladder Infection? It May Increase Prostate Risk

American Cancer Society reports one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in American men. The first leading cause is lung cancer. 

While cancer of the prostate gland is a serious health problem, many men recover successfully.

Over 3.1 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today. 

Numerous factors contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

Is bladder infection one of them? We’re going to discuss this subject below.

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Basics of bladder infections

A bladder infection, also referred to as cystitis, is a urinary tract infection (UTI).

UTIs can occur anywhere in the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. It’s easy to assume UTIs and overactive bladder are two terms for the same thing. But they’re not.

Overactive bladder happens when muscles of the bladder contract excessively, while UTIs usually result from bacterial infections.

Women are more likely to develop bladder infections than men because they have a shorter urethra. Just because infections of the bladder aren’t as common in men, it doesn’t mean men should overlook or ignore them.

Bacterial infection within the bladder is the most common cause of bladder infection.

The body usually removes the bacteria through urination. In some cases, bacteria can bind to the bladder walls and start multiplying rapidly. As a result, the body’s ability to destroy bacteria weakens, and infection ensues.

Most bladder infections stem from Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria naturally present in the large intestine. 

There are several types of cystitis, but we can categorize them into two main groups: acute and interstitial cystitis.

Acute cystitis is short-term and occurs suddenly.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic and long-term condition that affects multiple layers of bladder tissue. 

Types of cystitis

Bacterial cystitis

This develops when bacteria enter the urethra or when normally-growing bacteria become imbalanced.

When left untreated, the infection can lead to kidney damage and cause severe health problems such as kidney infections and other kidney problems.

Drug-induced cystitis

Some medications may induce inflammation of the bladder. Drugs pass through the body and eventually leave through the urinary system.

However, some drugs can irritate the bladder while they’re on the way to exiting your body.

Some medications that cause cystitis include chemotherapy drugs, cyclophosphamide, and ifosfamide.

Radiation cystitis

More specifically, radiation treatment in the pelvic area can lead to inflammation of the bladder.

Foreign-body cystitis (due to a catheter)

Ongoing use of a catheter can damage tissues in the urinary tract and increase the risk of infections.

Chemical cystitis

Some hygiene products can cause irritations of the bladder, for example.

Cystitis is associated with other health conditions – some health problems may lead to inflammation of the bladder. These include HIV, spinal injuries, enlarged prostate, kidney stone, and diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of bladder infection in men

  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary urgency
  • Dysuria (burning/tingling sensation during or after urination)
  • Urine is cloudy and has a strong odor
  • Low-grade fever
  • Hematuria (bloody urine)
  • Difficulty urinating (particularly if you have prostate problems)
  • Untreated bladder stone
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

Keep in mind not all cases of this problem have noticeable symptoms.

Some men can have asymptomatic bacteriuria (presence of bacteria in urine).

These problems can be complicated and uncomplicated.

Uncomplicated urinary tract infection happens in patients with the normal function of the urinary tract and unobstructed urine flow.

Risk Factors for Male Bladder Infections

Various problems can increase the risk of bladder infections in men.

Some of them are:

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate)
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney stones
  • Recent use of a urinary catheter 
  • Urethral stricture (abnormal narrowing of the urethra)
  • Having undergone procedure wherein instrument is inserted into the urethra 

The doctor needs a urine culture to detect the problem.

The exact treatment of bladder infection depends on its cause.

In most cases, patients need to take antibiotics. Some antibiotics may cause issues with bowel movements for a while.

The trickiest thing about this problem is that frequent UTIs can cause a great deal of stress daily.

Bladder infections and prostate cancer

The urethra passes through the middle of the prostate gland. When the prostate forms press against the urethra, difficult urination may ensue.

Problems affecting the prostate gland often lead to urination problems and UTIs such as bladder infections. In most cases, these problems occur due to enlarged prostate. But prostate cancer can also cause them.

Additionally, treatment for prostate cancer may damage the bladder and urethra. This can lead to various problems including pain, and infection of the bladder.

Surgery for prostate cancer can damage nerves or sphincter (bladder outlet muscle). As a result, support for the lower bladder weakens, and you may experience increased urinary urgency and frequency. Narrowing of the urethra may also occur at this point.

When it comes to prostate cancer and bladder, it’s also helpful to mention one thing. Prostate cancer, in its advanced stages, may spread to the bladder. In fact, it’s one of the most common sites to which prostate cancer spreads. When cancer reaches the bladder, it may cause additional problems with urination and bladder function. 

Symptoms that occur when prostate cancer spreads to the bladder are almost the same as UTI symptoms and other problems.

They include painful urination, urinary urgency, urinary frequency, getting up at night to urinate, blood in urine or semen, urinary incontinence.

That’s why prostate cancer is a disease that requires constant monitoring. When you go to your checkups regularly, a doctor can detect changes and determine whether it’s spreading to nearby tissues. 

Interestingly, the risk of prostate cancer increases after bladder cancer.

Does a bladder infection increase prostate cancer risk?

Prostate cancer can contribute to UTIs such as bladder infection.

But is their relationship a two-way street? The evidence says yes. 

LUTI

PLoS One journal published a study that analyzed whether lower urinary tract infection (LUTI) such as cystitis links to increased prostate cancer risk.

Scientists evaluated data of 14,273 men with LUTI. Results showed the risk of prostate cancer was significantly higher in men with a history of cystitis and urethritis than in counterparts who never had LUTI.

Moreover, men with more than five LUTI-related medical visits a year had a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

In other words, recurrent infection of the bladder increases the risk of prostate cancer.

It’s not that clear why LUTIs such as bladder infection increase the risk of prostate cancer.

A possible explanation is that cystitis causes bacterial prostatitis (prostate infection), which leads to prostatic carcinogenesis.

Inflamed tissue, especially after recurrent bladder infection, produces active oxygen and nitrogen radicals that increase cancer risk.

They do so by suppressing antitumor activity and stimulating carcinogenesis (production of cancer cells).

Age

We can’t rule out the age factor here. Prostate enlargement is a common age-related condition. It can constrict the urethra, where it passes through the prostate gland. In turn, urination becomes less efficient.

Inadequate emptying of the bladder creates a fertile ground for bacteria. They start multiplying rapidly, making you more prone to infections.

Frequent urinary tract infections, i.e., inflammations of this delicate area, can lead to the abovementioned problems where carcinogenesis begins.

Takeaway

The most important thing to remember here is that you should never ignore problems with the lower urinary tract.

You should see your doctor when any symptom occurs. That way, you can manage the problem adequately and reduce the risk of potential complications.

As mentioned above, the most common treatment approach for bladder infection is the use of antibiotics.

You need to stay on them until the entire course of treatment is complete. Yes, even if symptoms go away, you still need to take antibiotics. Why? Surviving bacteria can form strains that are resistant to antibiotics and, thereby, more challenging to treat.

Complicated UTI, such as an inadequately managed bladder infection, can significantly affect your quality of life.

Other risk factors of prostate cancer

As seen throughout this post, bladder infection may contribute to prostate cancer.

Many other factors increase the risk of this serious disease.

Some of the most significant prostate cancer risk factors include:

Older age

The risk of this disease increases with age, and it’s most common in men older than 50.

Overweight/obesity

Men who carry excess weight are more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Additionally, cancer is more aggressive in obese men and also more likely to return after the initial treatment.

Family history

Genetics also plays a role in the development of prostate cancer.

Interestingly, a family history of genes associated with breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2) or a strong family history of breast cancer can increase the risk of prostate cancer too.

Race

Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than men of other races, although the reason is unclear. Moreover, prostate cancer is also more aggressive in black men.

Location

Prostate cancer occurs most often in northern Europe and North America.

The condition is also increasingly prevalent in Asian men living in urbanized environments such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and cities in Europe and North America.

Conclusion

Prostate cancer is a serious health problem whose prevalence is constantly on the rise.

Various factors contribute to the development of prostate cancer, and studies show bladder infection is one of them. This is especially the case with recurrent UTIs such as cystitis.

The exact mechanism of action through which cystitis leads to prostate cancer needs further research.

A possible theory is that complicated bladder infection leads to inflammation that may promote carcinogenesis.

That said, treatment of prostate cancer can cause bladder infection symptoms.

The message here is that you need to be proactive about your health and never ignore lower urinary tract symptoms, especially with repeated UTIs.

Your doctor will order a urine test to detect the presence of infection and treat it promptly. 

Sources

  1. Evaluating the predictive value of urine tests for urinary tract infections. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/news/archive/2013/evaluating-predictive-value-urine-tests-urinary-tract-infections 
  2. Fan CY, Huang WY, Lin KT, et al. (2017). Lower urinary tract infection and subsequent risk of prostate cancer: A nationwide population-based cohort study. PLoS One. 3;12(1):e0168254. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28046120/
  3. Foxman B. (2014) Urinary tract infection syndromes: occurrence, recurrence, bacteriology, risk factors, and disease burden. Infect Dis Clin North Am. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24484571/
  4. Perdana NR, Mochtar CA, Umbas R, Hamid AR. (2016) The Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer and Its Prevention: A Literature Review. Acta Med Indones. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27840359/
  5. Hooton TM. (2012) Clinical practice. Uncomplicated urinary tract infection. N Engl J Med. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22417256/

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