Life insurance pays out a lump sum if you die during the life of your policy. This means that when you apply for a policy, insurers will make a prediction about how likely it is you'll die during that time. This is so they can work out how much of a risk you are to insure – and therefore how much it should cost.

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with cancer, this is something insurers will consider carefully during the ‘underwriting’ process that all applications go through. Some applications can be accepted automatically, after answering a set of questions about your health and lifestyle, but if you’ve had cancer, it’s likely that your application would be handed over to a (human) underwriter for review.

Depending on a number of factors about the cancer diagnosis you disclose, you might find it more difficult or more expensive to get insured. In many cases, insurers will choose to postpone the decision until a certain amount of time has passed – e.g. two years after treatment is completed.

Can you buy life insurance if you've had cancer or have cancer?

You can always apply for life insurance, even if you’ve had cancer in the past or currently have cancer – though the success of your application will vary from insurer to insurer based on the nature of your condition. When you apply for life insurance, you always have to answer questions about your health and lifestyle, which includes questions around your:

  • Personal health history
  • Family health history
  • Height and weight (BMI)
  • Smoking status

Having had a cancer diagnosis could affect whether or not the insurer accepts your application, but you can always apply and, more often than not, buy cover. Getting help from an adviser can really help if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, as they’ll quickly be able to filter out the insurers most likely to accept your application, who will offer the best terms for you and your circumstances.

Anorak tips:

Everyone wants to protect their family's financial future – even (and especially) if they've had health problems in the past. Having cancer could make it tricky to get health-related cover in place, like income protection and critical illness cover. It's highly likely an exclusion would be placed on your policy around your particular diagnosis.

However, you should be able to get life cover in place – but it depends on the timing. Insurers won't cover you if you're currently undergoing treatment, and most insurers will require 5 years of remission before offering you a policy.

At Anorak, our team of advisers is here to help you find the most suitable insurers and policies for you – whatever your circumstances. If you’ve had or have cancer, they’ll guide you to getting the right cover in place.

What will insurers need to know about your cancer diagnosis?

If you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, it’s likely you’ll be required to provide the following during the underwriting process:

  • The location and type of cancer you were diagnosed with
  • How long ago you completed treatment and went into remission
  • Whether the cancer spread to any other part of your body
  • The classification (if known)

Depending on the type of cancer you were diagnosed with, insurers might ask you for extra info – e.g. if you had breast cancer, they’ll ask about the tumour size, tumour grade, and whether any maintenance treatment was prescribed.

Buy the right cover for you (and your health)
Start here

How will a cancer diagnosis affect your life insurance application?

Typically, there are a few possible outcomes when you apply for life insurance but disclose a pre-existing health condition like cancer. These include:

  1. Your application being accepted as normal, with standard pricing rates (i.e. the same as they’d be for someone who hasn’t had cancer)
  2. Your application being accepted but with a ‘loading’ on the price (i.e. your rates will be between 50% and 150% higher than they would be for someone who hasn’t had cancer)
  3. Your application being accepted but with an exclusion in the policy conditions (i.e. relating to your specific diagnosis)
  4. Your application decision being postponed (this happens if the insurer thinks your diagnosis poses too much of a risk right now, but has the potential to improve in the future)
  5. Your application being declined (this happens if the insurer thinks your diagnosis means you’ll always be too high risk to insure)

Why you should always disclose your cancer diagnosis

When applying for life insurance, it’s extremely important to answer all the health questions honestly. If you don’t disclose that you’ve had cancer, even if you’ve been in remission for a long time, you risk invalidating your policy and it not paying out in the future, when you need it to.

  • You can apply for life insurance even if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis recently or in the past
  • If you have or have had cancer, you must disclose it during the application process, otherwise you risk invalidating your policy in the future
  • If you disclose your cancer diagnosis while applying for life insurance, extra medical information will be required from you during the underwriting process
  • Depending on several factors, including what type of cancer you had and how long ago, insurers may accept your application as normal; accept it but charge a higher premium; add an exclusion; or postpone or decline it
  • What is life insurance?
    An insurance policy that pays out a tax-free lump sum to your partner or family if you die. It’s designed to make sure your loved ones would be financially secure without you and your income.
    Who needs life insurance?
    Anyone who has financial dependents. In other words: other people who rely on your income. If you have a partner or children who’d be financially affected by you dying, you should consider having some life insurance in place.
    How much does life insurance cost?
    Life insurance is often very affordable, but the cost will be different per person. This is because it depends on the cover you buy and how much of a risk you are to insure (based on your age, health and lifestyle). Generally speaking, it's cheapest when you’re young, fit and healthy.
    Does life insurance always pay out?
    Life insurance will pay out if you die while you’re insured and you were honest about your health when you applied. It won’t pay out if you die after your policy runs out or you cancel it – and might not if you meet an exclusion (e.g. many insurers exclude death by suicide within the first year).
    Is it easy to claim?
    Claiming on a life insurance policy is straightforward – your partner or family simply claim directly with your insurance company. Making sure they know about your policy and have the details in case the worst happens can be helpful.

    This post is intended for informative purposes only and does not constitute advice.