Per generation, how many mutations do people get? Are most mutations harmful? Don't they cause cancer?

Hi Joon,

This is a good question.  There have been a number of studies done in recent years to answer this question.   
Many mutations occur in the region of the genome where the DNA does not have to code for a protein, so the mutations do not cause a problem.  Mutations in this area may be problematic however, if they occur in a region that controls, or regulates, the switching 'on' and 'off' of genes. 
As you say, some mutations are harmful, and this is demonstrated to awful effect, when an organism is affected by high doses of radiation, and as you sugest, this may, in some cases, lead to cancer.
However, changes to, or mutations in, the genome are the way that evolution happens at the molecular scale.  If there were no changes we would stop evolving.
Nachman and Crowell state that there are 175 mutations per generation, at least 3 of which are deleterious.  However, these are obviously not directly harmful to us, as each generation seems to be coping with the same conditions that their parents' generation survived under.

Last edited by Neil Gostling (19th Feb 2007 15:57:47)