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Why Accurate Knowledge of Zygosity is Important to Twins

  • Tessa L. Cutler (a1), Kate Murphy (a1), John L Hopper (a1) (a2), Louise A Keogh (a3), Yun Dai (a4) and Jeffrey M Craig (a1) (a4)...

All same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twins and approximately one-third of monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs have separate placentas, making it impossible to use the number of placentas to determine zygosity. Zygosity determination is further complicated because incorrect assumptions are often made, such as that only DZ pairs have two placentas and that all MZ pairs are phenotypically identical. These assumptions, by twins, their families and health professionals, along with the lack of universal zygosity testing for same-sex twins, has led to confusion within the twin community, yet little research has been conducted with twins about their understanding and assumptions about zygosity. We aimed to explore and quantify understanding and assumptions about zygosity using twins attending an Australian twin festival. We recruited 91 twin pairs younger than 18 years of age and their parents, and 30 adult twin pairs who were all uncertain of their zygosity, to complete one pen and paper questionnaire and one online questionnaire about their assumed zygosity, reasons for their assumptions and the importance of accurate zygosity knowledge. Responses were compared with their true zygosity measured using a genetic test. We found a substantial proportion of parents and twins had been misinformed by their own parents or medical professionals, and that knowledge of their true zygosity status provided peace of mind and positive emotional responses. For these reasons we propose universal zygosity testing of same-sex twins as early in life as possible and an increase in education of medical professionals, twins and families of twins about zygosity issues.

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Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Tessa L Cutler, Australian Twin Registry, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, 3/207 Bouverie St, The University of Melbourne VIC 3010, Australia. E-mail:
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Twin Research and Human Genetics
  • ISSN: 1832-4274
  • EISSN: 1839-2628
  • URL: /core/journals/twin-research-and-human-genetics
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