A genetic disorder is a disease caused by a different form of a gene called a variation, or an alteration of a gene called a mutation. Many diseases have a genetic aspect. Some, including many cancers, are caused by a mutation in a gene or group of genes in a person's cells. These mutations can occur randomly or because of an environmental exposure such as cigarette smoke.
Other genetic disorders are inherited. A mutated gene is passed down through a family and each generation of children can inherit the gene that causes the disease. Still other genetic disorders are due to problems with the number of packages of genes called chromosomes.