DNA Dumbness – What Not To Do When You Take a Test!

You may be contemplating taking advantage of the DNA specials that are currently offered – Ancestry.com and MyHeritageDNA.com are both being sold for $59.00 plus shipping.  Maybe you’re like me and have tested with a number of different companies over the past several years and believe you know the directions well enough to not read them.  I am going to share an embarrasingly dumb mistake I made last month when taking a DNA test to spare you having to learn this lesson on your own.

At my annual wellness physical my physician and I discussed genealogy.  Side note:  Physicians and genealogists share a lot in common, especially at parties where acquaintances want to poke your brain and get free advice on their chronic complaint – a health issue for the docs and a brick wall for the genealogist.  

My medical provider was sharing the results of her recent DNA test and I told her how I had compiled an ancestor health history going back several generations as I believe that some genetic conditions reoccur farther than the two generations back that typically the medical community zeroes in on when you complete the initial paperwork of who had what conditions.  

Granted, I have no proof of my theory other than what I’ve discovered in my own family tree and usually, when I mention this to a doctor, I get the same look that is given when you tell them you tried to self diagnose using WebMD.  I understand I’m enchroaching on their professional judgement but I mean no disrespect.  My current physician is very understanding of this tendency I have and although neither my parents or grandparents had medical concerns that DNA testing could show might affect me, I had two aunts that clearly carried a trait.  We both agreed it would be beneficial for me to be tested for medical information.

Deciding I could handle the test’s results, I made a followup appointment to spit into the test tube the next week.  The receptionist reiterated what the doctor said, don’t eat or drink anything within an hour of the test.  Yeah, yeah, I know already, I’m an expert DNA test taker!

Since my appointment was scheduled as the first visit of the morning, I decided I wouldn’t eat or drink anything after dinner the previous evening.  I even brushed my teeth right after dinner so there’d be no chance of a toothpaste interference. 

The next morning I got ready quickly and drove straight to the doctor’s office.  After signing in and being taken back to an exam room, the MA asked if I had eaten or drank anything in the last hour.  “No,” I replied, “Nothing since last night about 6:00.”  She then handed me the test tube and told me foam didn’t count so make sure to spit to the line.  

No worries, I got this.  My only thought was why didn’t they just take a cheek swab as in the days of old – that’s how I took my first Ancestry.com DNA test.  

MA left the room and I began to fill the test tube.  I was really going to town so I didn’t stop to look at the tube for a bit.  When I finally did, I had quite a shock.  My spit was not clear; it was tinged with pink.  

My first thought was I was bleeding but I felt fine.  Then it hit me; I had put lipstick on that morning.  

Lipstick does not process in my brain as food or drink.  It reminds me of my history as my maternal relatives never left the house without applying it.  I asked my grandmother why when I was about 8 and she said you should always put your best face forward.  That is, except when you’re taking a DNA test in the doctor’s office.

I didn’t know what to do; should I go look for the MA and ask if I should continue or should I just finish filling the tube?  I opened the door and saw no one in the hall so I decided to finish and maybe the test would be valid.

A few minutes later the MA returned and I sheepishly showed her the pink vial.  “I’ll check to see if that’s okay,” she said, “Never had that happen before.”  That made two of us.  Returning, she told me that the test wasn’t going to be acceptable and I needed to “Wash off your makeup, wait an hour and we’ll retest.”  

The last time someone told me to “Wash off that makeup” was in 8th grade and my lipstick of choice was Wow Wow White that looked awesome with my then braces.  Sister Rosarita felt differently and I was sent to the girl’s gang bathroom to remove it.  Then, I was angry at the school rule that was enchroaching on my lifestyle.  At the doctor’s office, I was angry at myself for being so stupid.

I was planning on meeting my husband after the appointment so I texted him I’d be late because, well, my lipstick got between my DNA and the tube.  He thought that was hysterical.  Me, not at all.  

A little over an hour later the MA called me from the waiting room and asked if I was sure I had gotten all the lipstick off.  I showed her my pale pink lips and said, “This is what they really look like.”  She laughed and said, “Nice color.”  

The second test went smoothly.  My results have been returned and they’re good, too.  

The doctor’s office staff were so kind about my mistake and said they’d make sure that they mention “NO LIP PRODUCTS” to future women who will DNA test.  I’m letting my dear readers know that, too.  

To Your Health – Genealogywise!


I’ve blogged previously about by attempt to analyze my ancestor’s health records to make lifestyle choices to keep me well (See Using Your Genealogical Info to Make You Healthy). This past week, MyHeritage.com has added a new feature that you can use to include your family’s medical history. It is purportedly private and secure, allowing you to keep all of the health records of the living and deceased in one place so you can download and print a checklist of the entered information to share with your physician.

To begin, you must first click that you have read the most lengthy Terms and Conditions I’ve ever seen. The next page asks you if your siblings, parents, aunts/uncles and grandparents had any of 10 medical conditions, such as stroke, heart and various cancers. For any condition selected, possible names from your tree are then provided for you to mark. Warning: If you have a big family in the past 3 generations, you’re going to have a lot of clicking to do! I clicked yes for heart attack as one of my husband’s relatives had that condition. To identify who had the heart attack, the program listed my husband, his siblings, aunts/uncles and grandparents for a total of 18 people. Only one of them had ever had a heart attack but the program will not allow you to move forward unless you click no for all of those who never had one. Of the 4 health conditions I selected, only 3 individuals needed a yes so this process was slow and could have been really lengthy if there had been additional medical conditions selected.

Next you can add allergies, other health conditions to include the age at onset, and other characteristics, such as height, weight and eye color. I found it interesting that height is entered in inches – I would have expected centimeters.

One of the options is hair color. In our family, that changes with age so I wasn’t sure if I should put blonde (from someone’s youth) or brown (in adulthood).

Sleep, smoking and exercise can also be added. No option existed for someone who never smoked but was raised in a household of smokers which I think is important.

Once you’ve entered the info, various icons appear under the individual that had been selected. This way, you can readily see patterns, if any, for a family condition.

Errors can be corrected quickly. I wrongly entered a stroke for my father-in-law. Simply click on the icon, a panel appears with the conditions identified. Clicking on the 3 dots (…) a choice to delete appears to remove the mistake.

Once you’re done adding the information for all of your relatives, you can click on the LIST button on the upper right ribbon to obtain the names of the individuals that had conditions entered. Besides the individual’s name and medical condition, birth, death, onset age and relationship is included.

The problem I see is that many of the initial conditions listed are due to lifestyle. I’m not sure it is helpful to your physician to know that a grandparent had diabetes if no one else in the family did and you follow a good diet and exercise regime.

Under the Nutrition category, there are several choices – omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, paleo and other – but those options alone do not tell a complete picture of nutrition. (I’m thinking about one of my former roommates who was a vegetarian. Her diet consisted of skipping breakfast, potato chips for a late morning snack, peanut butter and jelly for lunch, pretzels for an afternoon snack and a salad saturated in a mayo based dressing for dinner.)

A bigger concern I have is with entering misinformation. Unless the medical condition was definitely known, including wrong information could be a serious problem. Like with all genealogy, records should be consulted before including data going by memory alone.

I asked two medical providers in my family what they thought of the program. One is a physician and the other works as a chemical engineer for a medical lab. Both laughed and said this was a serious waste of time. Most of the medical conditions listed are due to lifestyle. Additionally, living conditions of someone 75 years ago will not be the same as our lives today and that greatly impacts health.

They both recommended, if there is a pattern of a medical condition in a family, a consultation with a geneticist would be more beneficial than taking the time to input the data on MyHeritage and presenting a list to your health care provider. An added caution here is not to think that the DNA test you purchased for genealogy purposes is going to provide the specialists with the information they need. Geneticists would provide a DNA test that is analyzed far differently than what is given by a genealogy company. If you have concerns about your family’s health, the new MyHeritage program is not going to be beneficial to your medical provider.