About MDS

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of related disorders in which stem cells in the bone marrow malfunction. Stem cells develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In MDS, defective stem cells produce too many defective blood cells and too few normal blood cells.
Defects in stem cells can cause blood cells to have an abnormal shape or size (dysplasia). The cells do not grow properly or live as long as normal blood cells. Defective cells can crowd out healthy cells in the bone marrow and leave the patient with too few mature cells in the blood. “Myeloid” means “related to bone marrow” so the name “myelodysplastic syndromes” indicates a set of diseases in which bone marrow cells are abnormally shaped, although misshapen cells are not the only sign of MDS.
– is a rare disease, although the exact number of affected patients is not known.
– is a clonal stem cell disease, meaning that when a defective stem cell clones itself (replicates) the new cells are also defective.
is not contagious. You cannot “catch” MDS from exposure to someone with the disease.
– is not hereditary. You cannot inherit it from your parents or pass it on to your children. It is not known if people can have a genetic predisposition to bone marrow failure.
– can appear at any age but is most commonly diagnosed in adults age 60 and older. The average age at diagnosis is 71 and 90% of MDS patients are over age 60.
– affects more men than women.
– is more common among Caucasians and less common among African-Americans, Asians, Inuits, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
progresses to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 10-20% of patients.
– can be treated in many ways but can be cured only with a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant.


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