Myelodysplastic Syndrome Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for myelodysplastic syndromes?

A risk factor is anything that changes your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For instance, smoking is a risk factor for cancer of the lung and many other cancers. But risk factors don’t tell us everything. People without any risk factors can still get the disease. And having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease.

Although some cases of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) are linked to known risk factors, in most patients, the cause is unknown.

Certain factors are linked to an increased risk of MDS:

  • Earlier cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell (bone marrow) transplants
  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • Family history – MDS is more common in some families
  • Smoking
  • Radiation (like from an atomic bomb blast or nuclear reactor accident)
  • Workplace exposure to certain chemicals
  • Age (MDS is more common as people age)
  • Gender (MDS is more common in men than in women)

More details about these risk factors can be found in our longer document, Myelodysplastic syndromes.


Last Medical Review: 02/27/2014
Last Revised: 04/03/2014