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Mutation accumulation over time in normal somatic cells contributes to cancer development and is proposed as a cause of ageing. DNA polymerases Pol ϵ and Pol δ replicate DNA with high fidelity during normal cell divisions. However, in some cancers defective proofreading due to acquired mutations in the exonuclease domains of POLE or POLD1 causes markedly elevated somatic mutation burdens with distinctive mutational signatures. POLE and POLD1 exonuclease domain mutations also cause familial cancer predisposition when inherited through the germline. Here, we sequenced normal tissue DNA from individuals with germline POLE or POLD1 exonuclease domain mutations. Increased mutation burdens with characteristic mutational signatures were found to varying extents in all normal adult somatic cell types examined, during early embryogenesis and in sperm. Mutation burdens were further markedly elevated in neoplasms from these individuals. Thus human physiology is able to tolerate ubiquitously elevated mutation burdens. Indeed, with the exception of early onset cancer, individuals with germline POLE and POLD1 exonuclease domain mutations are not reported to show abnormal phenotypic features, including those of premature ageing. The results, therefore, do not support a simple model in which all features of ageing are attributable to widespread cell malfunction directly resulting from somatic mutation burdens accrued during life. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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