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Several biological factors and harmful substances can increase the risk of developing cancer. A higher risk does not necessarily mean that you will get cancer. Sometimes urethral cancer develops without any known cause.

Men may have a higher risk of primary urethral cancer if they have had radiation therapy, chronic inflammation, or a sexual transmitted disease. Using a catheter several times a day to urinate (intermittent catheter) also increases risk for men.

Women who have chronic infection or recurrent urinary tract infection may have an increased risk of primary urethral cancer. Development of a pouch (diverticulum) in the urethra also increases risk for women (Fig. 1).

Risk factors for urethral cancer:

  • Age of 75 years or older—primary urethral cancer develops slowly and is more common in older people
  • Urethral strictures or chronic irritation after intermittent catheter use or surgery in the urethra
  • Radiation therapy (external or seed implantation) for other causes
  • Chronic urethral inflammation or inflammation following a sexually transmitted disease
  • Urethral diverticula and recurrent urinary tract infections
Figure 1: Bladder and urethra plus diverticulum.
Figure 1: Bladder and urethra plus diverticulum.
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