Teenager with rare skin disease shows positive outlook


Ciera Swaringen, a teenager from North Carolina, has learned to embrace herself as she suffers from a condition that covers her entire body with mole-like birthmarks.

Ciera was diagnosed with a rare skin disease called Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus. The condition causes an individual to be born with numerous oversized mole-like marks on the body.

These moles cover two-thirds of her body, and the largest one stretches from her naval to her lower thighs.

Congenital Melanocytic Naevi (CMN) means moles or birthmarks (naevi) present at birth (congenital). Melanocytes are skin and hair cells which produces melanin, a pigment which gives us our hair and skin color. It affects about 1 in 500,000 people.

This condition can further lead to CMN syndrome, where lesions and moles that begin to grow on the brain as well, which can stop development and cause multiple fits. It can be even more fatal, if tumors start to develop.

Children who are born with or start to develop large marks are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a highly lethal form of skin cancer, caused by the UV rays from the sun.

Ciera indeed has large marks on her body, yet she takes care when going out, especially in shorts and a shirt. She puts on sunscreen but still has to be careful and protected on hot days.

When she was younger, Ciera was often the most bullied kid in her school by her peers, especially teenage boys. But she has generated a positive outlook because of growing up in a small town, where most people do know her and support her, and also from her family.

For a high-school project, she used her skin condition as a subject. Her research into CMN led her to discover online groups run by Nevus Outreach, an association that provides support for affected individuals.