Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a relatively rare disease. About 10 percent of MDS cases develop after a patient has been treated with chemotherapy and radiation for another type of cancer — often breast, prostate or lung. Those treatments can damage the bone marrow, which can lead to MDS. However, the vast majority of cases occur as a result of other risk factors, including:
- Ionizing radiation
- Cigarette smoking
- Chronic exposure to benzene or other chemicals, such as toluene and xylene
- The presence of a rare congenital disease called Fanconi anemia
- Inherited disorders such as Shwachman-Diamond syndromes, familial platelet disorder, severe congenital neutropenia
Keep in mind that having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop MDS. Most people who have risk factors never develop the disease.