Smoking may slightly increase the risk for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), but alcohol consumption may be significantly protective against MDS, according to a study published in the British Journal of Haemotology.1

Previous studies suggest that smoking may be associated with an increased risk for MDS, but the impact of alcohol consumption was previously unclear.

This population-based cohort study tracked 95,510 Japanese men and women who reported alcohol consumption and smoking through a questionnaire survey. Subjects were followed for an average of 18.3 years. The primary outcome was newly diagnosed MDS.

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At the end of the study period, there were 70 new cases of MDS. Alcohol consumption was significantly associated with a dose-dependent decrease in MDS risk among men (hazard ratio [HR], 0.48; 0-299 grams [of alcohol]/week: HR, 0.37; at least 300 grams/week: HR, 0.49; P = .010).

Smoking was correlated with a slightly increased risk of MDS in men vs men who had never smoked (HR, 2.11).  An increase was also noted for patients who had more than 30 pack-years (HR, 2.22).

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The authors concluded that findings on the relationship between alcohol and MDS risk “have been inconsistent, and further evaluation across multiple populations is required.”


  1. Ugai T, Matsuo K, Sawada N, et al. Smoking and alcohol and subsequent risk of myelodysplastic syndromes in Japan: the Japan Public Health Centre-based prospective study. Br J Haematol. 2017 Jul 17. doi: 10.1111/bjh.14749 [Epub ahead of print]