More than 1300 MDS cases with clonal cytogenetic abnormalities, 200 of them secondary MDS, have been reported. The most common aberrations in primary MDS are del(5q) (27%), trisomy 8 (19%), monosomy 7 (15%), der(11q) (7%), -5, der(12p) and -Y (5%), del(7q) (4%), and t(1;7), der(3q), del(13q), i(17q) and del(20q) in 2% or less. The 5q- is mostly, but not always, a del(5)(q13q33); it is the cytogenetic hall-mark of the "5q- syndrome" and is frequently found as the sole abnormality. The frequency of the aberrations varies among MDS subgroups: 5q- is most frequent in RA, -5, -7, and der(12p) are more common in CMML and especially in RAEB, and +8 and der(11q) are more often found in RARS. The most common aberrations in secondary MDS are -7 (41%), del(5q) (28%), -5 (11%), der(21q) (9%), 7q-, +8 and der(12p) (8%), t(1;7) and -12 (7%), der(17p) (6%), der(3p) and der(6p) (5%), and der(3q), der(11q), -17, -18 and der(19q) (4%). The average number of abnormalities per case is 5.3, compared with 2.9 in unspecified MDS. The frequency of cytogenetically unrelated clones is 5.7% in secondary and 4.3% in primary MDS. When the literature data are broken down by type of genotoxic exposure, it turns out that -5, -7, and der(17p) are over-represented in patients who have received chemotherapy, whereas 5q- is associated with no exposure or preceding radiotherapy only. The karyotypic profile is prognostically important: patients with -7 or complex karyotypes have a higher risk of progression to acute leukemia and shorter survival.