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Life insurance with cancer

You should be able to get life insurance with cancer, but there are a few things to think about before taking out cover.

A photo of Daniel Sharpe-Szunko, the author

By Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

Published on: 3 March 2022

7 min read

Life insurance with cancer

Getting life insurance after cancer might seem like an odd subject but the reality is that you can get it and it can be affordable. There are quite a few things to consider when looking at life insurance with cancer, but the main thing is timing. 

A cancer diagnosis is likely to be a huge shock and can be a major wake-up call to many people, especially those with children. If you didn’t have life insurance before, then you certainly might want to think about it now. 

Cancer statistics UK 

According to recent statistics from the leading cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, the latest figures in the UK are: 

  • 3 million people living with cancer 
  • 391,000 new cases (2019) 
  • Cancer incidence has increased by 39% since 2002 
  • 167,000 deaths (2019) or 460 deaths per day 

It is estimated that 3.5 million people have cancer by 2025 and 5.3 million people will have cancer by 2040. 

What is cancer? 

Cancer is a medical condition which is when cells in an area of the body grow and divide at an uncontrollable rate. These cells which are the cancerous cells, can then spread to other areas of the body. 

Can you get life insurance with cancer? 

You should be able to get life insurance with cancer but there are quite a few things to think about before taking out cover. 

The reality is that life insurance will get easier and cheaper as time passes, so time is generally the most important element. Most insurance providers will consider life insurance for people who have been diagnosed with cancer and had treatment or surgery. 

Risks to insurance providers for life insurance tend to be higher if you have only just received treatment. There are even some specialist insurance options for people who are still receiving treatment or just diagnosed, but these will exclude cancer. 

Top tips for life insurance with cancer: 

  • Get proper advice from a life insurance specialist 
  • Know your grade and stage 
  • When did you last have treatment (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy) 
  • Regularly review your options (cover gets cheaper as you go on) 
  • Speak to your GP to get your information 
  • Be open and honest with your adviser 

There are a few points in time that you need to be aware of when you look at life insurance with cancer. 

  • Recent diagnosis (untreated): specialist life insurance can be available that will exclude any pre-existing medical condition, such as a type of cancer. These policies can cover accidental death, funeral expenses and other non-cancer related problems. 
  • Treatment ended (usually after 1 or 2 years): some insurers will offer life insurance 12 months or 2 years after treatment has ended. Usually you will be able to get life insurance after 2 years from treatment, but premiums can be higher soon after. 
  • Treatment ended 4+ years ago: insurance premiums will reduce significantly 4 or 5 years after your treatment has ended and there have been no relapses. Insurers often see this as a point where the risks of re-occurrence is lower. 

Note: if you’ve been refused life insurance then you should speak to a cancer life insurance specialist who can tell you why this has happened and explain the best options. Not all insurance companies offer cover for cancer survivors or current patients, and some don’t have the relevant experience or expertise to be able to help you. 

Does life insurance cover cancer? 

YES, all standard life insurance policies will not exclude cases of cancer, even if you’ve had it in the past or if a family member died from this condition in the past. 

Standard life insurance is underwritten when you apply for cover and so you should be fully covered if anything happens in the future. If you’ve disclosed cancer on your life insurance application then your premiums will reflect this and you’ll be covered. 

There are some specialist or non-standard life insurance policies that you can buy which might not cover any pre-existing medical conditions. You should check your policy wording carefully to make sure that you are covered for what you need, especially with these types of policies. 

How much is life insurance with cancer? 

There are lots of different elements to how your life insurance premiums are calculated, and then even more when you disclose a medical condition on your application. 

Life insurance will have a standard premium which is based on: 

  • Age or Date of Birth 
  • Sum assured (£’) 
  • Term (years) 
  • Type of cover 

There are also some lifestyle factors to consider, such as: 

  • Do you smoke 
  • Your BMI (height and weight) 
  • Activities 
  • Occupation 
  • Family history 

Cancer related factors include: 

  • Date of diagnosis 
  • Grade and stage of tumour 
  • Location of tumour 
  • Any spread 
  • Treatment (e.g. surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy) 
  • Date treatment ended 
  • Any re-occurrence 

When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked a list of questions about your health and lifestyle, plus some questions about your cancer. 

If you’ve got family history (e.g. a parent with breast cancer) then you might find that there are also some insurers that will include this to the calculations. Some insurers are better than others when it comes to considering family medical history.  

Best life insurance with cancer 

There are some policies that are certainly better than others when it comes to life insurance with cancer. 

Here are some of the main options: 

  • Family life insurance (level term life insurance) is the most popular type of life cover and usually the best suited to people looking for a policy after being diagnosed 
  • Mortgage life insurance (decreasing term life insurance) is designed to protect your mortgage because it decreases at a similar rate to your outstanding mortgage balance. This might not be suitable unless you’re specifically looking to protect a home with a mortgage 
  • Family income benefit is a less well-known type of life insurance that can be used to provide a replacement to a lost income. This might be a more affordably alternative if standard premiums are too high 
  • Whole of life insurance is usually used for Inheritance Tax purposes and generally will be unaffordable for people with a history of cancer 

The following types of cover are generally not available after cancer: 

Can I get life insurance if I have cancer? 

Lots of people will naturally want to apply for life insurance quite soon after they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, traditional life insurance won’t be available until after you’ve received treatment or surgery. 

There are some options to get life insurance before it has been properly treated with cancer exclusions, or Over 50s insurance policies. 

Cover options for life insurance before treatment are: 

  • Over 50s life insurance (if over 50) 
  • Guaranteed life insurance (e.g. ESMI or Hive) 
  • Personal Accident Insurance 
  • Funeral plans 

Do I need to tell life insurance about cancer?

YES, you will always need to disclose cancer on a life insurance application for your cover to be valid. 

Failing to disclose a medical condition or material fact on your application could result in any claims being refused. This is the same for all other similar types of insurance and there are very strict rules on non-disclosure. 

You will always be asked about cancer on the health questions when you apply for life insurance. Often, this will be in the first set of health questions and will usually be ‘have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?’. 

If you haven’t been asked or if it’s not disclosed on your application then you should speak to your insurer immediately. 

Life insurance before a cancer diagnosis

Ideally, you will apply for life insurance before you are diagnosed with cancer in younger life. It is strongly recommended that you apply for life insurance as soon as you can to avoid health problems cropping up in later life. 

If you’ve got a family history of cancer then you should be looking at life insurance options as soon as you can. It’s not worth putting life insurance off until after a diagnosis because of the impact that it will have. 

Life insurance for terminal cancer patients 

Unfortunately, if your cancer has been diagnosed as terminal then you will no longer be eligible for life insurance. 

If you already have life insurance and you’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer then you should speak to your insurance provider. There are a couple of potential options and support for existing life insurance policy holders where there is a terminal diagnosis. 

  • Terminal illness benefit 
  • Counselling or support services 

Where can I get life insurance with cancer? 

There are several cancer life insurance specialists who will have the experience and expertise to be able to help you more effectively. 

It’s important to make sure that anyone you get advice from has the right background and ideally is trusted by other customers. You should do your background checks to make sure that you’re confident and comfortable with who you’re dealing with. 


Macmillan – Macmillan Support Line

Cancer Support UK – Cancer Kits

NHS – Cancer

Macmillan – Statistics factsheet

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