Xeroderma Pigmentosum, XP, is a rare disease carried in 1 out of every 80 Moroccan’s DNA. It is only passed from parent to child when both parents carry the recessive trait. Thus, in Morocco’s poor communities, where there is little opportunity for marriage outside the family, people are at higher risk to have, or at least pass on, the disease.
The disease is characterized by blistering and burning of the skin and eyes, along with various cancers. The National Cancer Institute reports a 10,000-fold increased risk of skin cancer for someone with XP and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that non-melanoma skin cancer develops at a median age of nine. They are what Moroccans call Children of the Moon.
Today there are 800 Children of the Moon in Morocco. Due to poverty and poor access to health care, most of these children, teenagers and young adults will die before they reach 30.