Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem.

You can have MDS with or without those listed below. The more you have, the greater your chances of getting it. Ask your doctor what you can to do lower your risk.

MDS is most common in people aged 65 years and older. MDS also happens more often in men than women. But, women are more likely to have a type of MDS that is caused by a certain problem in the genes.

MDS risk is also higher for:

  • Smoking—When you smoke, many harmful chemicals get into the body. The risk is higher with the number of cigarettes smoked and years as a smoker.
  • Certain inherited diseases such as:
  • Exposures such as:
    • Having a job in the petroleum, rubber, and agriculture industries, and using certain chemicals such as benzene.
    • Radiation from a nuclear bomb fallout.
    • Radiation therapy, mainly if given with chemotherapy.
    • Certain tests during doctor or dental visits such as x-rays or scans (radiation builds up in the body during a lifetime).
  • Chemotherapy to treat other types of cancer. This is mainly true of people who had Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as a child.


General information about myelodysplastic syndromes. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloproliferative/patient/myelodysplastic-treatment-pdq#_1. Updated June 14, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 15, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Merck Manual Professional Version website Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/myelodysplastic-syndrome-mds. Updated December 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.
Risk factors for myelodysplastic syndromes. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/myelodysplastic-syndrome/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Updated January 22, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019.
Understanding MDS. MDS Foundation website. Available at: https://www.mds-foundation.org/what-is-mds. Accessed March 15, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/15/2019

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