November 11th, 2008
MDS or myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of disorders found mainly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces stem cells that normally develop and mature into any type of blood cells, which are released into the bloodstreams. Every day, millions of blood cells are produced and millions also die. The balance is partly monitored by hormone-like substances in the bone marrow called growth factors.
MDS affects the normal functions of the bone marrow drastically. There is an excessive production of blood cells but these cells either die before and after release or failed to mature properly. When there is lack of red blood cells in the body, anemia is present. With lack of white blood cells and platelets, frequent infections and excessive bleeding occur.
Researches have not yet divulged the truth behind myelodysplastic syndromes. However, the secondary or treatment-related MDS are linked to the following factors:
1. Chemotherapy drugs such as mechlorethamine, procarbazine, and chlorambucil are toxic drugs that cause even more damage to the bone marrow when combined with radiation.
2. Long-term exposure to toxic industrial chemicals such as benzene, which is a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke and also a widely used industrial chemical in soap detergent, furniture polish, and gasoline. Other high-risk substances are pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers (often used in commercial orchid production), and heavy metals.
There are no effective treatments for MDS yet. Most patients receive supportive care that helps manage chronic fatigue, bleeding, and infections. Some types of supportive care are: blood transfusion therapy, drug therapy, chemotherapy, and transplants.
Discovering that the secondary myelodysplastic syndromes may be caused by certain environmental toxins such as benzene, which is found in cigarette smoke, should inspire smokers to quit smoking now.