Genetic mutations are modifications to your DNA sequence that take place as your cells divide and generate copies of themselves. Your DNA explains to your body how to build and work. Genetic changes could result in diseases like cancer or, over time, could make people more environment-adaptive.
Genetic mutations are among the most fascinating and misunderstood phenomena in modern science. Myths about genetic mutations exist because there is a lot of confusion regarding genetics and the fact that one trait can have more than one origin.
Myth #1: Mutations Require Radiation or Other Treatments
In reality, genetic mutations happen all the time as a part of normal DNA replication. Most of them are harmless and will not affect the organism’s fitness. This is why you’ll probably never hear a doctor say, “You’ve got a mutation in your DNA.”
Myth #2: Mutations Only Cause Cancer
Cancer development is often associated with mutations. However, this misconception can be easily debunked by looking at genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. Genetic mutations cause these disorders, and they do not lead to cancer.
Myth #3: All Mutations are Bad
There is a popular misconception that all genetic mutations are bad or harmful, but this is far from the truth. We are actually born with many mutations that have no adverse effect on our well-being.
Most mutations that are harmful result in death or the inability to reproduce. These types of mutations will not be passed on to the next generation, and thus they will eventually become extinct. On the other hand, some mutations can increase an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. If these beneficial mutations are passed on, they will become more common over time as natural selection occurs.
Myth #4: Mutations are Always Permanent
Not true! Environmental factors and other mutations can change a phenotype (what your body looks like). You may have a mutation in your DNA that results in green eyes, but if you live somewhere where the sunlight is lacking, you’ll probably have blue eyes instead. Or maybe you’ll mutate a new gene that turns off the green eye-determining gene.
Myth #5: All Mutations are Inherited
Most mutations are usually only passed on if they have some kind of effect on an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. However, there are a few mutations that can be passed on from generation to generation regardless of whether they affect the organism. These mutations are often referred to as “mutational load.” This simply means that a certain number of mutations must occur for the organism to end up with these mutations.
Myth #6: Mutations are Caused by the Environment or Toxins in the Body
There is no evidence that environmental toxins or lifestyle choices cause genetic mutations. In fact, many believe that some mutations are caused by a process called “genetic load,” which results from a number of genetic mutations occurring in an organism’s genes over time.
Myth #7: Mutations Do Not Usually Occur in Humans
There are many genetic mutations that occur more often in humans compared to other organisms. Humans are so susceptible to mutations because they possess many more traits and abilities than any other species.
Because of this, most mutations will not affect an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. However, a few particularly harmful mutations can be passed on to the next generation.