Can you get life insurance after cancer?

Someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes, according to Cancer Research UK. If you’ve recently had treatment for cancer, the experience may have left you feeling anxious about the future, particularly if you have dependents that rely on your income.

Life insurance can help ease that anxiety and cushion loved ones from financial stress. To help you understand your options, we look at whether you can get life insurance after cancer.

What does life insurance cover?

If you pass away, life insurance pays out money to your beneficiaries. You can specify who your beneficiaries are, usually it’s your dependents and other family members.

Life insurance payouts are usually given as a lump sum, but they can also be made as regular payments depending on the type of policy you have. You can also specify how the money should be used, for example, to pay off a mortgage or to cover university costs for your children.

Can I get life insurance after cancer?

You can, but it could be harder to find life insurance and it could cost more compared to someone who hasn’t had cancer. However, bear in mind that some insurers may decline cover altogether.

To better understand the risk, insurers will ask you detailed questions about the type of cancer you had, what stage it was at and how you were treated. Insurers may also ask your doctor or oncologist for more information (with your permission), so they can accurately and fairly consider your application.

Another important factor insurers will consider is how long you’ve been in remission for. Generally, it’s hardest to find cover within the first two years of recovery as this is the period when cancer is most likely to return. If you’ve been in remission for at least five years, it should be easier to find life insurance.

Can I get life insurance if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer?

If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, you could struggle to find life insurance, but again, insurers will assess the risk based on your own circumstances.

How the Equality Act can help prevent discrimination after a cancer diagnosis

Cancer is classed as a disability under the Equality Act. This means insurance providers cannot make blanket decisions or assumptions about you because of your disability. In other words, they cannot make you pay more for your policy or refuse your application simply because you either have or have had cancer.

Instead, they must make decisions using factual and relevant information only—for example, by asking your oncologist for details. You can, however, be refused a policy or be charged more based on what your medical records report.

What happens if I’m diagnosed with cancer but already have life insurance?

As long as you keep up to date with your premiums and your details were correct at the time you bought the policy, it will remain in place.

It’s worth bearing in mind that after a cancer diagnosis, it could be difficult to increase the value of your life insurance payout (the sum assured). This should change after you’ve been in remission for a couple of years.

How much is life insurance for cancer survivors?

Life insurance premiums are affected by a whole range of factors, including:

  • The type of policy you want* – for example, term or whole of life insurance.
  • **Your age – as a general rule, life insurance premiums increase with age as there are greater associated health risks.
  • Your overall health – as well as understanding the type of cancer you had (or have) insurers will need to know about any other conditions or treatment you’re receiving.
  • Lifestyle – if you smoke or regularly drink alcohol, you can expect to pay more compared to someone who doesn’t.
  • Your weight and height – a high BMI or being overweight can increase premiums.

Does a family history of cancer affect life insurance premiums?

It can do, but it will depend on the type of cancer. For instance, if family members have suffered from certain types of cancer that can be inherited, this can lead to an increase in your premiums.

Examples of cancers that can be inherited include: bowel, ovarian and breast cancer.

What happens if I can’t get life insurance after cancer?

If you can’t find life insurance after you’ve had cancer, you could get it by asking insurers to exclude it from your policy. This would mean if the cancer returned and you passed away because of it, the policy would not pay out. It would still compensate your beneficiaries if you died for any other reason (unless it was an exclusion, for example, death by suicide).

Another option to consider is an over 50s life insurance plan. These are designed for people over the age of 50 up to 80 or 85 years old and will provide your beneficiaries with a lump sum when you pass away.

Some insurers will limit the payout whereas others will let you choose the amount – just remember, the higher the sum assured, the higher your premium is likely to be.

One of the biggest benefits of an over 50s plan is that they guarantee acceptance. You won’t need to have a medical and there are few health-related questions, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve recently had cancer or have any other health conditions.

Should I get life insurance?

If you have family that relies on your income, life insurance could be something worth considering. The money your loved ones receive can help ease financial pressure at a difficult time.

If you do decide to take out a policy, think about the amount of cover you’ll need. If you’re the breadwinner, GoCompare says a rough calculation is to multiply your annual salary by ten and use this amount as the sum assured (the value of the payout). For example, if you earned £35,000 a year, that calculation for the sum assured would be £350,000.

However, for a more accurate figure, it’s a good idea to work out your family’s regular monthly expenses and base the figure off this. You may also want to consider any expenses that could crop up in the near future. This could include childcare costs, school or university fees. You could even factor in funeral costs. And it's typically advisable to speak with a professional financial advisor when making these decisions.

Looking at your outgoings in detail like this could mean setting a higher sum assured, which would lead to higher premiums. Nevertheless, it can help your dependents avoid financial stress in the medium to long term and ease any immediate money worries.

For more information about life insurance and how to choose a policy, take a look at our in-depth guide.


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