On all environmental articles I read about 3 impacts of mutagens (say Cigarette/ Naphthalene/ EtBr/ Colchicine/ ionizing radiation/ whatever )...

1. direct effect on tissues, other than mutation, such-as burns, choke, cirrhosis of liver, Lesion in lungs etc. (no direct relation with mutation)

2. Mutation affecting development of organs and intelligence, in youngs; and hidden mutation not affecting adults but showing expression (birth-defects) in future progeny.


3. Tumor and Cancer.

Now, my question is, if an adult become exposed to some mutagen; the only visible effect of mutation (not about burns etc, talking about genetic-mutation) ... on that affected-individual; whether cancer is the only-possible disease? or it is possible to occur some-other sort of genetic disease (not about future but only to that particular affected-one)

anything else should happen ... say exact opposite thing... uncontrolled apoptosis that gradually kills whole affected person (for say).

or for say due to a genetic-damage a person became unable to perform cell-division, so no wound healing. If once part of body become cut, and it remain open forever, never seals. (I never heard or read anywhere).

instead of cell-death, they could perform some-other malfunctions, too. Like turning-off certain normal function, say stopped transport of certain molecule, or say stopped a function like color-vision, or start to secrete / accumulate some metabolites same-way as inborn error of metabolism?

But could anything such happen other-than cancer?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about radiation poisoning? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 13, 2016 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ Cancer is a wide collection of different diseases with a huge variety of symptoms and physiological impacts. Another DNA damage based disease is acute radiation poisoning. I also have a feeling that sometimes DNA damage can lead to sclerosis... I'd have to look it up. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 13, 2016 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ Once DNA is damaged the cell will be destroyed, it cannot replicate and the disease won't emerge. Healthy cells replace them. However in cancer the damaged cells are not killed because those were the mechanisms that were damaged; cancer will proliferate. This won't happen in cells that are damaged in other ways but still retain cell cycle control. With radiation sickness, DNA damage causes a lot of immediate symptoms because so many cells are damaged too badly to replicate and will be destroyed. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 13, 2016 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ Let's use your examples. Say a cell gained the trait of uncontrolled apoptosis. What would happen? It would die and the damage is not passed on. If a cell becomes unable to divide, it will not be able to replicate and no disease will occur. You would need to instantly damage all the DNA of cells in the body in a very specific way to see disease states like that emerge. In a manner of speaking, this is what viruses aim to do - change host cell DNA in a specific way to do their bidding. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 13, 2016 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ I thought we were discussing somatic mutation diseases, not inherited mutations that cause disease. Xeroderma pigmentosum for example can be carried with relatively little effect because other alleles can pick up the slack of the defective allele. The disease only appears when a child inherits two defective copies of the gene. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 22, 2016 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Before answering your question, an important note. Not all neoplastic growth is malignant. A mutation may result in a benign growth, which is an outcome different from cancer. Not all of these change to cancers. Moreover, almost all genetic diseases may arise de novo as a germline mutation, and this mutation may be caused due to the environmental mutagen, and hence will be a non-neoplastic outcome of environmental mutation. The list of such genetic diseases is impossible to replicate here.

Assuming you are asking non-malignant diseases involving somatic (acquired) mutation as a pathogenetic event, here's a subset.

Some diseases with proven somatic mutation are:

Neurofibromatosis 1 & 2
Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria
Incontinentia Pigmenti

For more details, have a look at this paper here.
Erickson RP. Somatic gene mutation and human disease other than cancer. Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research. 2003 Mar 31;543(2):125-36.


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