Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Risk Factors for Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Risk Factors for Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

A risk factor is something that raises a person's chances of getting a disease or health problem. A person can have MDS with or without the risks below. The more risks a person has, the greater the chances are.

MDS is most common in people aged 70 years and older. MDS also happens more often in men than women. But, women are more apt to have a type of MDS that is caused by a gene problem.

Other things that raise the risk of MDS are:

  • Smoking
  • A family history of MDS, AML, or plastic anemia
  • Inherited syndromes, in children with MDS, such as:
  • Exposures such as:
    • Having a job in the petroleum, rubber, and farming industries—and using certain chemicals such as benzene
    • Radiation from a nuclear bomb fallout
    • Radiation therapy
    • Certain tests during doctor or dental visits such as x-rays or scans
  • Previous chemotherapyto treat other types of cancer, such as:


  • General information about myelodysplastic syndromes. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloproliferative/patient/myelodysplastic-treatment-pdq#_1. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/myelodysplastic-syndrome-mds. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Merck Manual Professional Version website Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/myelodysplastic-syndrome-mds. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  • Risk factors for myelodysplastic syndromes. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/myelodysplastic-syndrome/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  • Sweeney MR, Applebaum KM, et al. Medical conditions and modifiable risk factors for myelodysplastic syndrome: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 201;28(9):1502-1517.
  • Understanding MDS. MDS Foundation website. Available at: https://www.mds-foundation.org/what-is-mds. Accessed April 20, 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.