Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are characterized by overproduction of mature functional blood cells and are often associated with an acquired genetic mutation of Janus Kinase 2V617F. The etiology of MPNs remains unknown. The aim of this article was to review and collate all known published data investigating environmental and lifestyle factors associated with MPNs. Medline, Embase, PubMed, Cochrane, and Web of Science were systematically searched using terms for MPNs and observational study designs to identify studies investigating the risk factors for MPNs published before March 2010. Of 9,156 articles identified, 19 met the selection criteria. Although the studies exhibited heterogeneity, in case definitions, study design, and risk factors investigated, several themes emerged. A strong association was found with Jewish descent, and with a family history of MPNs. Autoimmune conditions, specifically Crohn's disease, were more common in patients with MPNs. Certain occupational groups were significantly associated with MPNs including occupations with potential exposure to benzene and/or petroleum. Blood donation was associated with an increased risk of polycythemia vera specifically. The vast heterogeneity in studies identified as part of this review suggests that large scale systematic assessment of etiological factors associated with MPNs is warranted.