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Can Myelodysplastic Syndromes Be Prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). But there are things you can do that might lower your risk.

Not smoking

Since smoking is linked to an increased risk of MDS, not smoking can lower the risk. Of course, people who don't smoke are also less likely than people who smoke to develop many other types of cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.

Avoiding exposure to radiation or certain chemicals

Avoiding known cancer-causing industrial chemicals, such as benzene, might lower your risk of developing MDS. 

Treating cancer with radiation and certain chemotherapy drugs can increase the risk of MDS. Doctors are studying ways to limit the risk of MDS in patients who get these treatments. For some cancers, doctors may try to avoid using the chemotherapy drugs that are more likely to lead to MDS. Some people, however, may need these specific drugs. Often, the obvious benefits of treating life-threatening cancers with chemo and radiation therapy must be balanced against the small chance of developing MDS several years later.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Komrokji RS, Padron E, List AF. Chapter 111: Myelodysplastic syndromes. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Steensma DP, Stone RM. Chapter 99: Myelodysplastic syndromes. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE. Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014.

Last Revised: January 22, 2018

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