Years ago, it wasn’t considered “PC” for identical twins to be too much alike, despite the fact that they are biologically identical, so sociologists stressed the differences between identical twins who were raised apart. Then later studies showed that identical twins are amazingly alike, even those who didn’t know they even had a twin: they married people with the same names, had the same favorite foods and favorite colors, etc. Now a recent study shows that Identical twins lose some of these similarities as they grow older.

These differences may stem from environmental changes that chemically modify a person’s genes. Your DNA spiral stays the same, but your individual genes can change, depending on your exposure to chemicals, foods and environmental factors.

Researchers Christoph Plass and Yue-Zhong Wu studied 40 pairs of twins from Spain, Denmark and the UK. The youngest set of twins was 3, and the oldest were 74. They were asked questions about their health, eating habits, physical activity, prescription medications and use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. DNA analysis showed that twins who had not always lived together had the most genetic differences.

Learning about how genes change may shed light on how cancer progresses and develops. Plass says, “Nearly every tumor, every human malignancy shows changes in DNA?that mess up gene expression. If we understand what regulates [these] patterns, then we may be able to develop better treatment options for cancer.”

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