Can you get life insurance if you have cancer?


It depends on your health history and varies by carrier. If you're currently undergoing treatment, you won't be able to get traditional coverage. But if you're in remission or have a family history of cancer, it's still possible to get competitive rates.

Logan SachonAnna Swartz 1600

Logan Sachon & Anna Swartz

Published October 3, 2019


  • If you have a family history of cancer, you may still be able to qualify for the best rates, depending on the insurance carrier and the specifics of your situation

  • For cancer survivors who are currently in remission, the rates you’ll get depend on the type of cancer you had and how long it’s been since you completed treatment

  • People currently undergoing treatment for cancer likely won’t be able to get traditional life insurance, but can qualify for guaranteed issue life insurance

Shopping for a life insurance policy can be stressful for anyone — no one likes to imagine or plan for their own death — but it can be especially intimidating for people with a family history of cancer or who’ve had cancer themselves.

Your health history plays a large role in your life insurance rates, so if you are a cancer survivor, currently in treatment or one of your parents or siblings has had a cancer diagnosis, your rates or even your ability to purchase an insurance policy could be affected.

But depending on the type of cancer you’re dealing with, your current health status, and the details of your family history, there are still several life insurance policy options available to you.

In this article:

Life insurance for cancer patients

If you are currently undergoing treatment for cancer, or if you have had a cancer diagnosis within the last two to four years, it’s very likely that you will not be able to purchase a traditional term life insurance or whole life insurance policy and will have to purchase a more expensive final expense policy. (There are exceptions for some skin cancers).

If you’re still undergoing treatment, your future health may still be a big question mark to insurers. They don’t want to assess your mortality and assign you a health rating while your health profile is changing so rapidly.

The underwriters want the health issue to have been resolved for at least a few years before they give you a health classification.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get any life insurance coverage at all if you’re undergoing treatment for cancer or have a recent diagnosis.

Guaranteed issue life insurance for cancer patients

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of whole life insurance that does not require a medical exam and, in many cases, does not require answers to medical questions.

The tradeoff is that guaranteed issue life insurance policies are much more expensive than traditional term life insurance, and offer lower benefit amounts.

But if you’re unable to purchase regular term insurance, a guaranteed issue life insurance policy could be a good way to get some life insurance coverage and provide a small death benefit for your family should you die while the policy is active.

Guaranteed issue life insurance is most often available to people over 50, but if you are under 50 and living with cancer, it may be possible to purchase a guaranteed issue policy with some carriers.

Guaranteed issue policy premium rates are based on your age, and are priced per $1,000 unit of coverage. Additionally, the policies are limited in how many units you can purchase: many policies max out at a $10,000 death benefit, though some may allow you to purchase up to $25,000 in coverage.

Sample guaranteed issue whole life rates for women:

Women$10,000 policy $25,000 policy
AgeAnnual PremiumMonthly PremiumAnnual PremiumMonthly Premium

Sample guaranteed issue whole life rates for men:

Men$10,000 policy $25,000 policy
AgeAnnual PremiumMonthly PremiumAnnual PremiumMonthly Premium

Sample rates only. Not available in all states.

A term life insurance policy is the best option for most people in terms of affordability and breadth of coverage, but if you cannot qualify for a term policy because of a current or recent cancer diagnosis, guaranteed issue life insurance may be a good option for you to still leave a death benefit for your beneficiaries.

A Policygenius insurance expert can help you decide which type of policy is right for you and help you apply for life insurance.

Life insurance for former cancer patients

People with past cancer diagnoses who have been declared in remission and are a certain number of years past their final treatment may be eligible for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy.

For cancer survivors, your ability to qualify for a policy and your rates for that policy will be based on four factors:

  • The type of cancer you had (e.g., breast cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer, etc.)
  • The date you were diagnosed with cancer
  • The date of your last cancer treatment
  • How the carrier weighs those factors against the rest of your health history

It’s hard to say which insurers are best for which cancers, because your entire health history is taken into account, in addition to how far out you are from diagnosis and treatment.

But generally, some cancer types can lead to a better rating than others based on how the carriers assess the mortality risk of those cancers. An independent insurance broker familiar with underwriting across carriers can help you choose the best insurer for you.

Generally, these are the best ratings you can expect if you have been diagnosed with each of the following cancer types. But your specific circumstances, including how far out you are from your last treatment, along with the rest of your health history, will determine your final rating:

Cancers that could result in Preferred Plus ratings for some carriers:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer
  • Papillary thyroid cancer
  • Stage 1 seminoma testicular cancer

Cancers that could result in Preferred ratings for some carriers:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Cancers that could result in Standard ratings for some carriers:

  • Benign tumors
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Renal cancer

If you have a cancer diagnosis in your health history, it’s important to work with an independent broker like Policygenius who can review your medical history and work with in-house underwriters to choose the best carrier and policy for your situation.


Compare the market, right here.

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Life insurance for a person with a family history of cancer

When you’re applying for life insurance, your current health matters, but your family’s health history is also taken into account.

Insurers want to know if any members of your immediate family — your parents and siblings — have been diagnosed with cancer or another genetic disease, at what age they were diagnosed, and whether they died.

Your answers to those questions could affect your insurance classification, which is the rating given to you by the underwriters that determines how much you’ll pay for your insurance policy.

During the underwriting process, the life insurance company’s underwriters will review your application in order to assign you a health classification

Each carrier has its own classification terms, but generally, Preferred Plus will give you the lowest premium rates, with Preferred, Standard Plus, Standard, and Substandard ratings (also called table ratings) offering progressively higher rates.

Every carrier treats a family history of cancer differently. While a family member with a certain cancer may affect your rates with one carrier, it could be that you’re still able to get the best available rates with another.

For example:

  • Some insurers will give you Preferred Plus rates if the cancer in your immediate family has higher survival rates and is not considered hereditary; others will not give best rates if any immediate family member has a cancer diagnosis
  • Some carriers won’t count gender-specific cancers if you’re the opposite sex (e.g.,if you’re female, the fact that your father had testicular cancer won’t affect your rates)
  • Others won’t inquire into family history of cancer at all

That’s exactly why it’s so important to shop around for life insurance and compare quotes — you may get very different offers from different companies, depending on how they treat a family history of cancer.

The best life insurance companies for people with a family history of cancer

Since some types of cancer can be passed down from parent to child, a family history of cancer among your biological relatives (along with other chronic illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease) would be taken into account by insurers when setting your rates.

Our experts considered some of the most popular life insurance companies and rated them for how friendly their underwriting practices are for people with a history of cancer in their families.

These ratings generally line up with the best health class each insurance company may offer you based on this diagnosis. “Good” means you could likely get preferred rates, and “fair” means you could likely get standard rates. These are general guides based on our expert advisors’ years of experience, plus literature from the insurers themselves.

Here are the best companies for people who have a family history of cancer:

Life insurance companyRanking
John HancockGood
Pacific LifeGood
Mutual of OmahaGood

Why does a cancer diagnosis raise life insurance rates?

When you apply for life insurance, insurers look at factors like your hobbies, credit score, the results of a medical exam and your health history to determine how much you’ll pay for coverage. They do this because they want to assess how much of a risk you’ll be to insure, and how likely they are to wind up paying out the death benefit on your policy. Some of the information they’ll look at includes:

  • Health questionnaire
  • Medical history and pre-existing medical conditions
  • Physician statements
  • Driving record (MVR)
  • Medical exam results

It may seem morbid, but the insurance company basically wants to figure out how likely you are to die during your policy period.

Having a current cancer diagnosis, a past history of cancer or a family history of cancer raises red flags for the insurer when they’re evaluating risks — but not every instance of cancer in your medical history will have the same effect on insurance.