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What is myelodysplastic anemia?

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Quick Answer

Myelodysplastic anemia, or myelodysplastic syndrome, is a condition where the bone marrow malfunctions, according to WebMD. Bone marrow is responsible for the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In myelodysplastic anemia, the marrow does not produce enough blood cells or the blood cells that are produced don't work the way they should.

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Full Answer

Myelodysplastic anemia is fairly uncommon, according to WebMD, but it can turn into acute myeloid leukemia, which is a blood cancer.

Some people develop myelodysplastic anemia after they've undergone treatment for cancer, says WebMD. Chemotherapy drugs seem to place them at increased risk. These drugs include chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, melphalan, teniposide and mechlorethamine. Other people are born with risk factors that make them susceptible to myelodysplastic anemia. Fanconi anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome and severe congenital neutropenia put them at greater risk for developing myelodysplastic anemia.

In Fanconi anemia, the bone marrow doesn't produce enough red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets, states WebMD. In Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, the bone marrow doesn't produce a healthy number of white blood cells. In severe neutropenia, the marrow doesn't produce a sufficient number of a certain type of white blood cells called neutrophils.

Constant, long-term exposure to certain chemicals can also put a person at risk for myelodysplastic anemia, notes WebMD. The same is true of smoking.

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