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Reducing Your Risk of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Reducing Your Risk of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

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

Quitting Smoking

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

Quitting smoking helps lower the risk of MDS and other cancers. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. The doctor can advise ways to quit.

Controlling Exposures at Work and Home

Some people are exposed to harmful chemicals at work or home. One example is benzene. Low levels of benzene are in products like gasoline, car exhaust, or pollution. It can also come from glue, paint, or cleaning products. It is important to follow the label's directions. It is also advised to use a mask or air out the room while using these. This will help lower the risk of exposure.

Finding safer work will help reduce exposure. If not, it is important to take steps to reduce exposure. 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. The doctor or dentist can address these concerns.

Prior Cancer Treatment

Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy are linked to a higher risk of MDS. After treatment, the doctor will watch for any signs of MDS. Keep in mind this is rare.


  • Can myelodysplastic syndromes be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/myelodysplastic-syndrome/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html. Accessed April 19, 2022.
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/myelodysplastic-syndrome-mds. Accessed April 19, 2022.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.