Best life insurance companies for people with a history of cancer

Cancer can make shopping for life insurance tricky, but it doesn't have to be hard to get an affordable policy.

Shopping for life insurance shouldn’t be daunting for anyone, but for applicants with a history of cancer, it can be intimidating. After all, your health history plays a large role in life insurance rates. You might wonder if your family has a history of cancer that can put you at risk, will insurers want to cover you? Even if they did, would you be able to afford it?

But if there’s one thing you should know about shopping for life insurance, it’s that there are many options out there for you based on who you apply with and the specific type of cancer involved. Life insurance for people with a family history of cancer is well within reach if you know what carriers are looking for and how to shop for the best coverage.

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

When you’re applying for life insurance, your current health matters, but your health history is taken into account, too. So is the health history of your family. Insurers want to know if someone in your immediate family died from a genetic disease, and the age at which they died.

During the underwriting process, you’ll be classified to determine what your rates will be. Your family health history is one of the factors that plays into your classification; if a family died from an inheritable disease before a certain age – typically 60 or 65 – it can negatively impact your classification.

Classifications range from Preferred Plus down through Preferred, Standard Plus, Standard, and Substandard. Premium rates are assigned accordingly: Preferred Plus applicants will be offered the best rates, while Substandard applicants will end up paying much more.

Since some types of cancer can be passed down from parent to child, family history of cancer (along with other chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease) are taken into account by insurers when setting your rates. Here are the best companies for people who have survived cancer, or have a family history of cancer:

Life insurance companyRanking
John HancockGood
Mutual of OmahaGood
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Getting life insurance with cancer history

Even if you don’t have cancer when you apply for life insurance, the life insurance companies will still look at two things: family history of cancer, and whether or not you’re a cancer survivor.

We’ll talk about this a little more later, but a family history of cancer is the perfect example of why you need to shop around when you’re applying for life insurance: insurers have different guidelines, and what might make you uninsurable to one won’t necessarily with another. For example, family history of cancer will often limit you to Standard classification, but:

  • Some insurers consider only some of the more hereditary cancers and disregard others
  • Some will take into account gender-specific cancers (e.g., you’re a female so the fact that your father had testicular cancer won’t affect your rates)
  • Others won’t inquire into family history of cancer at all

Getting life insurance as a cancer survivor

Survivors of cancer are similarly limited to Standard classification, but you may be able to be classified as Standard Plus. It depends on the severity and type of cancer; certain cancers, like thyroid, prostate, and testicular, are more likely to get you a better health classification (and therefore rate) with select insurers.

What do I do if an insurer rejects me?

It's unlikely that a life insurer will reject you based on your family history, but if your rates are prohibitively expensive, don’t give up.

First, make sure you’re applying for life insurance through a broker that has an underwriter on staff (like we have here at Policygenius). Why is this important? All declines will be run by the in-house underwriter to be reviewed; in some cases, the underwriter can advocate on your behalf if he or she thinks you’re being unfairly declined and can help get you covered.

Second, and for similar reasons, make sure you’re working with an independent broker who can shop your policy around to multiple insurers. Oftentimes one insurer might decline you, but another will cover you. If you only apply through one carrier you might get rejected while another carrier wouldn’t care about family history. You’d never know and would just think you were uninsurable.

If you apply directly with an insurer or with a captive agent (an agent who works with only one insurer), you’ll have to apply multiple times. An independent broker can do that all for you, so if one insurer does end up declining you, he or she can move onto the next one – again, advocating on your behalf – and see if any other insurers are willing to provide coverage.

The most important thing to do is never assume that you’re uninsurable. Even if you can’t get term life insurance, it’s worth looking into alternative insurance options like simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance. While we usually don’t recommend those products, they’re good protection for people who might otherwise be insurable.

For term life insurance options, there are a multitude of life insurance carriers out there, and your chances of being covered are probably better than you assume.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.


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