The article titled “Incidence of and Risk Factors for Myelodysplastic Syndromes in Patients with Rheumatologic Diseases” by YoungEun Kim and colleagues focuses on the connection between rheumatologic diseases and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a type of blood disorder where the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough healthy blood cells. Conducted at Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, the study investigated the incidence and potential risk factors for MDS among patients diagnosed with various rheumatologic conditions.

The researchers carried out a retrospective cohort study from May 2009 to July 2022, excluding any patients under 18 or those previously diagnosed with MDS. They tracked the health outcomes of this group over time, specifically looking for new cases of MDS. Each patient who developed MDS was compared to five similar patients (same age and sex) who did not develop the disorder, from the same cohort.

Over a period encompassing 55,841 person-years, 64 patients were diagnosed with MDS, an incidence rate of about 1.15 per 1000 person-years. The typical patient was middle-aged (median age 57) and diagnosed with MDS about 6.5 years after their initial rheumatologic disease diagnosis.

The study found systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) to be a significant risk factor for developing MDS, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 2.61. Patients with SLE, along with those having rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, typically had lower hemoglobin levels at their initial diagnosis compared to others. Additionally, patients with SLE and Behcet’s disease used more glucocorticoids, either in frequency or dose, compared to their peers without MDS.

The findings highlight that SLE is a notable risk factor for MDS among patients with rheumatologic diseases and that lower hemoglobin levels might predict the future development of MDS.