Although patterns of somatic alterations have been reported for tumor genomes, little is known on how they compare with alterations present in non-tumor genomes. A comparison of the two would be crucial to better characterize the genetic alterations driving tumorigenesis. We sequenced the genomes of a lymphoblastoid (HCC1954BL) and a breast tumor (HCC1954) cell line derived from the same patient and compared the somatic alterations present in both. The lymphoblastoid genome presents a comparable number and similar spectrum of nucleotide substitutions to that found in the tumor genome. However, a significant difference in the ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous substitutions was observed between both genomes (P = 0.031). Protein–protein interaction analysis revealed that mutations in the tumor genome preferentially affect hub-genes (P = 0.0017) and are co-selected to present synergistic functions (P < 0.0001). KEGG analysis showed that in the tumor genome most mutated genes were organized into signaling pathways related to tumorigenesis. No such organization or synergy was observed in the lymphoblastoid genome. Our results indicate that endogenous mutagens and replication errors can generate the overall number of mutations required to drive tumorigenesis and that it is the combination rather than the frequency of mutations that is crucial to complete tumorigenic transformation.