Since smoking is linked to the development of leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), not smoking can lower the risk of these diseases. Of course, nonsmokers are also less likely than smokers to develop many other types of cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.
Treating cancer with chemotherapy and radiation can cause MDS. Doctors are studying ways to minimize the risk of MDS developing in patients who receive these treatments. In some cancers, doctors may try to avoid using the chemotherapy drugs that are more likely to lead to MDS. Some cancers, however, may need these specific drugs. Often, the obvious benefits of treating life-threatening cancers with chemotherapy and radiation therapy must be balanced against the small chance of developing MDS several years later.
Avoiding known cancer-causing industrial chemicals, such as benzene, might lower your risk of developing MDS. However, most people with MDS do not have any known preventable exposure to occupational and environmental radiation and chemicals.
Last Revised: 07/02/2015