MDS: Risk Factors

There are approximately 12,000-15,000 cases of MDS diagnosed annually in the United States. The majority of the patients are over the age of 60.

Primary (also called “de novo”) MDS has no known cause. Most patients fall into this category. Secondary MDS is caused by prior treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for a previous cancer.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age:  MDS is rarely diagnosed before the age of  40.  Though individuals can develop this condition at any time of life, it is most prevalent in people over 60. The incidence of MDS is also increasing as the population ages.
  • Previous cancer treatment: Patients who have had both chemotherapy and radiation for previous cancers have the greatest chance of developing MDS, though their overall risk is still considered low.
  • Gender: MDS is more common in men than women.
  • Smoking: Use of cigarettes is a known risk factor.
  • Environmental causes: Exposure to high levels of radiation, to benzene and to some chemicals used in the petroleum and rubber industries have been linked to MDS.
  • Inherited syndromes: Fanconi anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, familial platelet disorder, and severe congenital neutropenia are associated with MDS.