A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem. Some of these, such as your age or health past, cannot be changed. Others, like some habits, can be changed.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is harmful to the whole body. The risk of many cancers (not just MDS) are higher in people who smoke.

Quitting smoking is a big step in lowering your chances of MDS and other cancers. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. Talk to your doctor about the best ways for you to quit.

Control Exposures at Work and Home

Many people work in jobs where they may be around harmful chemicals such as benzene. It is also found in the home. Low levels of benzene are in products like gasoline, exhaust from a car, or pollution. It can also come from glue, paint, or cleaning products. Follow the label's directions with care. Use a mask or air out the room while using these. It will help lower the risk of exposure.

Try to find work that's safer if you can. If not, take steps to protect yourself from harm. Check with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or the Environmental Protection Agency for help.


Certain tests, such as x-rays during doctor or dental visits, give low doses. But, radiation builds up in the body over a lifetime. Repeated doses can make the risk of MDS higher. Talk to your doctor or dentist if you are concerned about this risk. Get these tests only when you need them.

Prior Cancer Treatment

Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy are linked to a higher risk of MDS. After treatment, you will be watched and tested by your doctor for any signs of MDS. Keep in mind this is rare.


Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114054/Myelodysplastic-syndrome-MDS. Updated October 15, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.

Can myelodysplastic syndromes be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/myelodysplastic-syndrome/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html. Updated January 22, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 3/15/2019