Myelodysplastic Syndromes

(MDS; Myelodysplasia; Preleukemia; Smoldering Leukemia; Subacute Leukemia)


Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases that involve dysfunction of the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the tissue found within the bones; its task is to create mature blood cells from stem cells. In all forms of MDS, this normal cell-creation process is disrupted by the overproduction of clones of a single stem cell. This leads to a decrease in production of normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The World Health Organization has classified MDS into eight categories. Some forms are more serious than others; all of them are serious enough to require a physician’s care. Thirty percent of people with MDS develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and their parent cells. As more is learned about MDS, experts began to see it as a form of cancer.
Location of Active Bone Marrow in an Adult
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The cause of MDS is unknown, but research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.

Risk Factors

MDS is more common in men and in those aged 60 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of MDS include:
  • Family members with MDS
  • Certain genetic syndromes:
  • Exposure to large amounts of radiation
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene
  • Exposure to pesticides
  • Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy treatment for cancer
  • Smoking

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