STEP 1: Prevention and early detection


The causes of MDS are not fully understood, and there is currently no clear prevention strategy.

Risk factors include:

  • age (occurs mainly in people aged over 60)
  • gender (MDS is more common in males)
  • long-term exposure to environmental/ occupational hazards such as benzene, tobacco smoke, insecticides and other toxins
  • previous chemotherapy (alkylating agents and purine analogues), radiotherapy or ionising radiation
  • an inherited predisposition to MDS in paediatric MDS patients with Down syndrome, Fanconi’s anaemia and neurofibromatosis.

Early detection

Patients may be identified early when mild cytopenia is detected on a full blood examination. Other patients may present with symptoms such as fatigue, bruising or recurrent infections.

Some patients with cytopenia may not meet the criteria of MDS and may be categorised as having clonal cytopenia of uncertain significance. The clinical significance of this is uncertain, and follow-up with a GP for more severe cytopenia(s) may be appropriate.

Screening recommendations

Routine screening for MDS is not currently recommended in either the general population or in relatives of people with MDS.

General health checklist

  • Recent weight changes discussed and recorded
  • Alcohol intake and smoking status discussed and support offered if appropriate
  • Physical activity recorded
  • Referral to a dietitian, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist considered
  • Sun smart advice