These days it’s common knowledge that smoking tobacco causes cancer, and that when used as directed, the product will ultimately kill you. When we think of tobacco related diseases, lung cancer and lung diseases typically come to mind, but new evidence suggests that smokers are also at increased risk of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
Exposure to the hydrocarbon benzene is a risk factor for developing MDS. Cigarettes contain benzene as an additive. Benzene also occurs naturally as a byproduct of combustion, so smokers get a double dose of the carcinogen.
MDS is a bone marrow failure (BMF) disorder that is associated with benzene exposure. BMF disorders interfere with the body’s ability to create new blood cells, severely compromising the immune system. Effective treatments include blood transfusions, and stem cell transplants. The latter can cure the condition, but only for those fortunate enough to find a matching donor.
The authors of the new study say that the results make "biological sense." They say that this is not only because cigarettes are a leading benzene exposure source, but also because smoking causes chromosomal abnormalities also associated myelodysplastic syndromes.
The study was a review of ten previous studies and was carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Amgen, The Cleveland Clinic, and SUNY downstate.
Authors of the study concluded that smokers are 45% more likely to develop MDS, than non-smokers.