Am I Really Related to Phyllis Diller?!

Phyllis Diller

By User:Brian Hamilton (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Blue eyes.  Light brown hair.  Hitchhiker’s thumb.  Straight hairline. Unattached earlobes.  Inability to roll tongue.  These are some of the observable traits I inherited from my parents, like them or not.  The chromosomes I received from my mother and my father determined each trait.

But what else have I inherited that’s not so obvious?  What diseases or illnesses am I predisposed to?  Am I overly sensitive to certain medications?  Do I have any ancestral links outside of Europe?  Am I really related to Phyllis Diller as my paternal grandmother said?

I’ve been contemplating these questions since reading an intriguing article by Mashable’s Campaigns Editor, Lauren Drell, “Why Mapping Your DNA Could Save Your Life” over a week ago.  Personal DNA test kits are now available for $99 (plus shipping) through the company 23andme.  When I first learned about DNA genotyping years ago, I always assumed it would be cost prohibitive for me.  Now, it sounds too easy!  One only needs to send a few milliliters of saliva.  No blood samples!

According to 23andme, their service will provide health and ancestry information from both the maternal and paternal lineages.  Customers will learn the statistical risks for various illnesses/diseases, drug responses, traits and family history details.  The personalized results will be available online within 6-8 weeks of returning the kit with periodic updates as researchers expand their knowledge base.

Why am I so fascinated with DNA genotyping?  I enjoyed studying genetics in high school and in college.  I remember predicting inherited traits by diagramming genotype combinations with Mendel’s Punnett squares.  My interest may also stem from my medical background.  Not only do I wish to learn about my own health risks, but I also like that my participation will contribute to research.  I believe this is the future of medicine.

Additionally, I have been interested in my ancestry ever since working on a family tree in my sixth grade social studies class.  Some of my family ancestry has already been researched and documented in a variety of family publications.  I’ve not had much desire to delve further into those particulars.  However, I’m curious to learn what DNA genotyping may uncover about my origins.

What’s giving me pause about doing this?  I have to admit it was my husband’s initial reaction when I told him about this service.  He’s a bit skeptical by nature and questioned the reliability of the company.  So, I took some time to research the company and read online reviews.  I couldn’t find much to discredit the company or to deter my interest.

The other night, my husband and I listened to a review of 23andme’s DNA genotyping on a podcast he frequently listens to called, Oh No, Ross and Carrie.  Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy are self-described “curious investigators”  who explore the scientific validity of various claims.  Both of them participated in the Personal Genome Service® and deemed the genotyping worthwhile for the curious!  Now, he’s interested!

DNA genotyping may not be for everyone.  There is a chance of learning some unexpected familial or health-related information.  Some people express privacy concerns.  That’s a valid issue given that digital databases can be compromised.  But, many of us shop online and routinely give out personal information.  Not much difference to me.  Federal law does protect the results from being shared with third parties such as employers or insurance companies.

For me, any knowledge I obtain about my health will empower me to make informed decisions in the future.  I am a strong believer in preventative health.  I know that both environment factors and lifestyle choices impact my health despite inherited predispositions!  I can take steps to decrease my risks of contracting certain illnesses/diseases in consultation with my medical practitioner.

I do believe I will order my DNA genotyping kit, spit and mail (along with one for my husband!).  Time will only tell if I actually discover whether Phyllis is a relative or not.  And, even if I don’t learn the truth about this piece of family lore, I may discover some other distant family member, famous or otherwise!

How about you?  Are you interested in your genetic story?  Would you want to know what disease processes you may be at risk for?

5 thoughts on “Am I Really Related to Phyllis Diller?!

  1. Pingback: Am I Really Related to Phyllis Diller? - Generation Fabulous

    • Thanks for stopping by, Chloe! I’ve lurked on your website some and I love your way of “telling it like it is”! I’m told I have tact, but sometimes bluntness is called for! I hope to write a follow-up after my DNA analysis comes in. I just got around to placing my order for the kits yesterday!

    • I understand that many people use the DNA testing for that very purpose! Thanks for linking to my site!

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