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The ability of genome maintenance systems to detect and resolve defects in the DNA ensures that rates of spontaneous mutation are usually very low during each cell generation. In the course of acquiring the mutations needed for tumorigenesis, cancer cells often increase the rates of mutation. This is achieved through increased sensitivity to mutagenic agents, through a breakdown in one or several components of the genomic maintenance machinery, or both. (Adapted from Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation, Hanahan and Weinberg, Cell 2011)

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