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Reducing Your Risk of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

The exact cause of MDS is not known, so prevention is difficult to determine. Reducing risk factors may decrease the chance of developing MDS.

  • Quit SmokingQuitting smoking is an important step in preventing most cancers, including MDS. For people who smoke, it takes the body longer to fight infections and heal wounds. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. Talk to your doctor about the options available to help you successfully quit.
  • Avoiding or reducing occupational exposure to certain chemicals—People who work in the petroleum, rubber, or agriculture industries may come into contact with chemicals that are known to be harmful. Chemical solvents like benzene are a known risk factor for MDS. If possible, try to find work in a different environment. If it is unavoidable, take steps to protect yourself from exposure. Check with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or the Environmental Protection Agency about any available protective guidelines.
  • Avoiding or reducing radiation exposure—Radiation accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime. Radiation does occur naturally, but low doses are also delivered during medical and dental procedures. Repeated doses of this radiation may increase the risk of MDS. Work with your doctor or dentist to limit the number of exposures by only having necessary tests.

Chemo- and radiation therapy used to treat certain types of cancer are associated with MDS. Though cancer treatment is unavoidable, you and your doctor will monitor your progress and assess your risk for secondary MDS development.

Revision Information

  • Myelodysplastic syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114054/Myelodysplastic-syndrome-MDS. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed June 21, 2016.

  • Myelodysplastic syndromes. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003122-pdf.pdf. Accessed June 22, 2016.