Cytogenetic studies of 91 consecutive patients with therapy-related myelodysplasia or overt acute nonlymphocytic leukemia disclosed characteristic defects of chromosome 7 in 48 cases and of chromosome 5 in 21 cases. The chromosome 5 abnormalities were consistently present in all abnormal mitoses at the time of diagnosis, as were the chromosome 7 abnormalities in 45 of the 48 patients. Various abnormalities, primarily of the short arm of chromosome 17, were observed in 13 cases, abnormalities of the long arm of chromosome 21 were observed in 12 cases, and rearrangements of 11q23 were seen in nine cases. Thirteen patients presented a normal karyotype. Previous therapy with alkylating agents, the presence of an initial myelodysplastic phase, and abnormalities of chromosome 7 or 5 were interdependent. Patients with 11q23 rearrangement typically developed overt leukemia of FAB types M4 or M5a without myelodysplasia and with a short latent period. Evaluated by Cox regression analysis, complete remission of the primary malignancy and a malignant lymphoma as primary tumor were the two most important and independent prognostic factors indicating a longer survival (P = .008). In addition, the platelet count at diagnosis was a significant prognostic factor (P = .01). For the subgroup of 62 patients with myelodysplasia, the number of chromosome aberrations, the percentage of blasts in the bone marrow, and the hemoglobin level were other significant and independent prognostic factors (P = .05, .05, and .004, respectively). The most important predictive factor for a favorable response to intensive antileukemic chemotherapy in overt leukemia was the absence of a preceding myelodysplastic phase (P = .0014).