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. Although the term often has a negative connotation, mutations (including polymorphisms) can be harmful, beneficial, or neutral in their effect on cell function. The term variant is sometimes used as a synonym for the term mutation.
Last updated: 2016-08-24
Source: The National Cancer Institute's Dictionary of Cancer Terms (http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary)