Life insurance pays out as a lump sum if you die during the life of your policy. This means that when you apply for a policy, insurers will predict how likely it is that 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 definitely 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 say 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.
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.
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:
- 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)
- 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)
- Your application being accepted but with an exclusion in the policy conditions (i.e. relating to your specific diagnosis)
- 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)
- 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.