New study shows relation between spinal cord injury and bladder cancer

Studies suggest that urinary bladder cancer is more likely to have a more unfavourable course in spinal cord injury patients than in non-paraplegic patients. However, many questions remain unanswered, such as the causes. A national research team with the participation of the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors in Dortmund (IfADo) has therefore analysed long-term data from patients from Germany, Austria and Switzerland with spinal cord injury who were treated without permanent catheters. The team concluded that urinary bladder cancer is a late event in the long-term course of paraplegia. Follow-up must therefore be intensified as the duration of paraplegia increases.


The BG Klinikum Hamburg, the German-speaking Medical Society for Paraplegiology e.V. (DMGP) and IfADo have collected and analysed data from 135 patients with spinal cord injury and a diagnosis of urinary bladder cancer between 2012 and 2019. On the one hand, the data of this study confirm the results of the previous Hamburg study on paraplegic patients who were also treated without indwelling catheters: The average age at the time of diagnosis of bladder cancer was about 20 years younger compared to the general population.

Follow-up important

On the other hand, the research team sees urinary bladder cancer as a late event in the long-term course of spinal cord injury. The time to onset of urinary bladder cancer was longer in patients managed entirely without catheters than in patients managed with disposable catheters. Therefore, follow-up must be intensified with increasing duration of long-term paraplegia.

According to a current estimate, 25-30 million people worldwide live with spinal cord injury. Due to medical advances, the life expectancy of these people has improved dramatically. Cancer is currently the third leading cause of death in people with paraplegia, and urinary bladder cancer is the second most common tumor after lung cancer. Against this background, the question of a possible relationship between spinal cord injury and the incidence of urinary bladder cancer has gained interest in recent years.

Original publication:
Böthig, R., Kowald, B., Fiebag, K. et al. Bladder management, severity of injury and period of latency: a descriptive study on 135 patients with spinal cord injury and bladder cancer. Spinal Cord 59, 971-977 (2021).
Press contact:
Anne Gregory
Press officer
Ardeystrasse 67 Dortmund Nordrhein-Westfalen DE 44139