Bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Historically, it is most frequent in Western countries and lowest in Asian countries. However, a striking increase in newly diagnosed cases has been seen in Japan. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that by 2025, the number of newly diagnosed cases of bladder cancer per year will pass 60,000, over three times the number diagnosed in Japan in 2005.

One of the main known risk factors for developing bladder cancer is smoking. Interestingly, reported smoking rates in Japan are lower than in many Western countries. The aging population is likely to be the main reason behind the surge of bladder cancer in Japan. It is well documented that bladder cancer most commonly occurs in ages 55 years and above. Older people are at greater risk of developing cancer in general, due to buildup of damaged cells in the body.

Japan is experiencing significant population aging, with over a quarter of the population ages 65 years and above, and this proportion will continue to increase. Living longer means the time individuals are exposed to potential risk factors increases, and this in combination with age-related damage to cells is likely a key driver of the witnessed increase in Japan. Furthermore, the elderly population of Japan is physically active in comparison to other developed countries. This prolonged activity may further extend time exposed to potential risk factors of bladder cancer.

Figure 1: Newly Diagnosed Cases of Bladder Cancer, Men and Women, Ages ≥15 Years, 2005–2025

The figure above compares the estimated number of newly diagnosed cases in Japan compared to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK from 2005 to 2025. Estimates are based on GlobalData’s analyzed trends in historic data. In 2005, the number of newly diagnosed cases of bladder cancer in Japan was similar to that in France, Spain, and the UK, while Germany had approximately 10,000 more cases than Japan. While the number of cases in France, Spain, Italy, and the UK remained relatively stable, newly diagnosed cases of bladder cancer in Japan soared from 2005, and by 2016 were roughly the same as in Germany. GlobalData epidemiologists expect the rapid increase in Japan to continue to at least 2025 as a result of increasing incidence in older ages and population change. By this point Japan will have approximately 15,000 more newly diagnosed cases of bladder cancer per year than Germany, and around 40,000 more newly diagnosed cases per year than France, Spain, and the UK.

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