Patients with the rare genetic disorders, xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), trichothiodystrophy (TTD) and Cockayne syndrome (CS) have defects in DNA nucleotide excision repair (NER). The NER pathway involves at least 28 genes. Three NER genes are also part of the basal transcription factor, TFIIH. Mutations in 11 NER genes have been associated with clinical diseases with at least eight overlapping phenotypes. The clinical features of these patients have some similarities but also have marked differences. NER is involved in protection against sunlight-induced DNA damage. While XP patients have 1000-fold increase in susceptibility to skin cancer, TTD and CS patients have normal skin cancer risk. Several of the genes involved in NER also affect somatic growth and development. Some patients have short stature and immature sexual development. TTD patients have sulfur deficient brittle hair. Progressive sensorineural deafness is an early feature of XP and CS. Many of these clinical diseases are associated with developmental delay and progressive neurological degeneration. The main neuropathology of XP is a primary neuronal degeneration. In contrast, CS and TTD patients have reduced myelination of the brain. These complex neurological abnormalities are not related to sunlight exposure but may be caused by developmental defects as well as faulty repair of DNA damage to neuronal cells induced by oxidative metabolism or other endogenous processes.