Mitosis is important for the maintenance of the chromosomal set; each cell formed receives chromosomes that are alike in composition and equal in number to the chromosomes of the parent cell. Transcription is generally believed to cease during mitosis, but epigenetic mechanisms such as bookmarking function during this stage of the cell cycle to ensure that the "memory" of which genes were active prior to entry into mitosis are transmitted to the daughter cells.
Although errors in mitosis are rare, the process may go wrong, especially during early cellular divisions in the zygote. Mitotic errors can be especially dangerous to the organism because future offspring from this parent cell will carry the same disorder.
In non-disjunction, a chromosome may fail to separate during anaphase. One daughter cell will receive both sister chromosomes and the other will receive none. This results in the former cell having three chromosomes containing the same genes (two sisters and a homologue), a condition known as trisomy, and the latter cell having only one chromosome (the homologous chromosome), a condition known as monosomy. These cells are considered aneuploid, a condition often associated with cancer.
Mitosis is a traumatic process. The cell goes through dramatic changes in ultrastructure, its organelles disintegrate and reform in a matter of hours, and chromosomes are jostled constantly by probing microtubules. Occasionally, chromosomes may become damaged. An arm of the chromosome may be broken and the fragment lost, causing deletion. The fragment may incorrectly reattach to another, non-homologous chromosome, causing translocation.
It may reattach to the original chromosome, but in reverse orientation, causing inversion. Or, it may be treated erroneously as a separate chromosome, causing chromosomal duplication. The effect of these genetic abnormalities depends on the specific nature of the error. It may range from no noticeable effect to cancer induction or organism death.