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Mutation

Glossary

mutation

Any change in the DNA sequence of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.

A change in the usual DNA sequence at a particular gene locus. Mutations (including polymorphisms) can be harmful, beneficial, or neutral in their effect on cell function.

Last updated: 2014-02-26

Source: The National Cancer Institute's Dictionary of Cancer Terms (http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary)