Can I get life insurance if I’ve had cancer?

10 min Read Published: 04 Jun 2024

Can I get life insurance if I've had cancer?Yes, it is possible to get life insurance if you have had cancer depending on the details of your illness and how long ago you completed your treatment. As a cancer survivor you may wish to create security using life insurance that pays a cash amount of money to provide financial support to your dependents or to repay any debts you may have. 

There are many different types of cancer so it can be difficult for cancer survivors to find life insurance solutions based on their specific history of cancer but in this article, we provide the steps to buying life insurance after cancer.

A life insurance company will ask some additional questions to find out as much as possible about your diagnosis, as well as write to your doctor. Your answers about your cancer diagnosis along with your doctor's report will be assessed to work out whether you will be accepted for life insurance or not. If you are thinking of applying for life insurance and have had cancer, make sure you read this article in full before you make an application to save both time and money. We also explain how to get help from an expert life insurance adviser* who can search the market with your specific health information. 

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about life insurance and cancer, including:

If you simply want to know the cheapest way to buy life cover, jump to 'Which is the best life insurance company if I've had cancer?'.

Does life insurance cover cancer?

Yes, if your death happens as a result of cancer, most life insurance covers cancer and will pay out as long as you were honest about your health at the time you applied for life insurance. A very small percentage (between 2-5%) of life insurance claims are ever declined and the vast majority of those that are declined are because there was "non-disclosure" of facts about pre-existing medical conditions when you applied for life insurance. Non-disclosure is "where the consumer left out relevant information they were asked about when they took out their policy (a type of misrepresentation)" -

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What questions will a life insurance company ask about my cancer?

Cancer is a condition where cells can grow and reproduce uncontrollably in many parts of the body so the additional questions an insurance company will ask will often depend on the location and severity of the cancer you have had.

Life insurance providers will ask at least some or all of the following questions relating to your cancer:

  • What your exact cancer diagnosis was
  • When was it diagnosed?
  • What was the stage or grade of the cancer
  • Have you received treatment?
  • Has the cancer been surgically removed?
  • Has the cancer re-occurred?
  • Did the cancer spread to other parts of the body?
  • Are you in complete remission?

An insurance company needs to understand whether it is more likely to pay a claim due to your history of cancer - this will determine how much your life insurance costs and whether it can be offered at all. So, while it may feel intrusive, it is helpful to share as much information as possible to ensure you are provided with a fair and thorough assessment based on your unique circumstances.

This is where speaking to an independent life insurance specialist* is key as they will be able to ask all of the relevant questions from the outset. By giving all of the relevant medical information to a life insurance specialist, you can ensure that you only have to answer the questions once. The specialist will use the information you provide to select and recommend the insurance company that is most likely to accept you at the cheapest possible price. Importantly, each life insurance company uses its own set of guidelines to assess your life insurance application meaning that selecting the best one relies on a knowledge of the guidelines each insurance company uses. Life insurance specialists use their knowledge of these guidelines to select the right life insurance company based on your specific cancer diagnosis making it more likely that you find an affordable life insurance solution. 

 If you have had cancer in the past and struggled to get life insurance, you may want to consider over-50s life insurance (so long as you are over 50 of course). Check out our article 'Which is the best over 50s life insurance?'.

How does cancer impact life insurance premiums?

Having a history of cancer may mean that your life insurance premiums may be higher than what is quoted to you but this is not always the case as life insurance premiums are calculated according to the risk of an early claim. If the likelihood of your premature death is increased then usually, you will be required to pay more for your life insurance but how much more, again depends on your selection of life insurance company. Choosing term life insurance which covers you for a period of time means that the life insurance pays out only if you die within the time period that you are covered so the type of life insurance you buy and how long you buy it for, will have an impact on what you pay. 

If you have suffered a form of cancer in the past then there are four possible outcomes to your life insurance application:

  • accepted with no increase applied to your monthly premiums
  • accepted with an increase applied to your monthly premiums
  • application postponed
  • application declined

We have given examples in our table below which could lead to three of the four possible outcomes. The table gives an example of how the additional questions can impact the final decision made by an insurance company. One of the decisions not covered in our table below is a rating (an increase applied to the original premium) as ratings are applied on a case-by-case basis. Any rating will depend on the type and severity of cancer and will be different depending on which insurance company you apply to.

We would always recommend speaking to a life insurance specialist* if you have had any form of cancer as they will be able to use their wealth of experience and knowledge to ensure that you apply to the insurance company that has the best chance of accepting your application and at the lowest possible premium.

Life insurance outcomes based on your cancer history

Cancer Type Skin Cancer (Basal cell carcinoma) Breast Cancer Bowel Cancer
Did it spread? No No Yes
Complete remission? Yes No No
Date of diagnosis 2 years ago 6 months ago 2 years ago
Any outstanding investigations No Yes No
Has it re-occurred? No No Yes
Disappear or Treatment / Surgically removed? Surgically removed Treatment. Ongoing Surgically removed plus treatment
Staging, Grading or Non-Malignant Non-malignant Stage 1 Stage IIIB
Fully recovered? Yes No Yes
Decision No increase to premiums Postponed Declined
Premium £11.70 N/A N/A

based on a 35-year-old non-smoker applying for £200,000 lump sum level term life insurance

Can I get life insurance if I have previously been declined for cancer?

Yes, it is possible to get life insurance if you have previously been declined life insurance, however, it will depend on a number of factors. If you have been declined by one life insurance company because of your cancer history other insurers may still offer you life insurance cover. An insurance company will always underwrite your application according to its own unique set of underwriting guidelines based on your specific diagnosis and recovery. Although life insurance applications include a question about whether you have previously been declined for life insurance, do not worry if you have to answer yes to this question. The purpose of the question is usually only to highlight non-disclosure, where an applicant may hide the facts of their medical history.

Simply answering 'yes' to having been declined for life insurance will not preclude you from being offered life insurance by a different life insurance company as long as its application assessment and guidelines are more generous. 

The key is knowing which is the best insurer to approach based on the details of your cancer diagnosis and treatment along with your overall health. An understanding of each insurer's guidelines is needed to do this successfully which is why a life insurance specialist can be needed Choosing the right insurer is difficult without some expert assistance from a life insurance specialist. We have personally vetted the services of a specialist life insurance broker who is an expert at arranging life insurance for cancer survivors. We go into more detail about how to use an independent specialist to apply for life insurance below.

Can I get life insurance with a family history of cancer? 

Yes, it is usually possible to buy life insurance if someone in your family has had cancer depending on the following:

  • Which family member - life insurance applications only ask you about your immediate family which is your birth parents and any natural siblings so you do not usually have to disclose information about aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. 
  • Their age when they were diagnosed with cancer - you will usually only be asked about incidences of cancer if your relative was diagnosed with cancer before the age of 65, later diagnosis is usually irrelevant
  • The type of cancer your family member had - some types of cancer have strong genetic characteristics and these may be of more interest to a life insurance company
  • If there is more than one person in your family with a similar cancer history - more than one immediate family member with the same type of cancer diagnosis before the age of 65 could mean that you will need to be selective about which life insurance company to apply with

If you have a family history of cancer, you will usually still be accepted for life insurance cover but you will need to be selective about which life insurance company to apply with. Most life insurance companies will not increase the cost of your life cover based on a family history disclosure of cancer but some may and you will wish to avoid these. To find the best and cheapest life insurance if you have cancer in your family, you should speak with a life insurance specialist who will direct you to the best outcome based on your circumstances and the type of life cover you want. 

If you wish to buy life insurance with critical illness insurance, you will be assessed differently as critical illness cover pays out if you are diagnosed with cancer. You can read more information to guide you with this in our article, "Buying critical illness insurance with a family history of cancer".

Can I get life insurance if I have terminal cancer?

Unfortunately, life insurance is usually unavailable if you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer as this suggests that your chances of survival are low. You may, however, qualify for Over 50s life insurance - a type of life insurance that does not assess your medical health but you should be aware that some of these types of life insurance policies come with a qualifying period of between 12 and 36 months during which time, if death happened, the insurance provider may only return the premiums that you have paid. 

If you already have life insurance, you should check your current life cover policy to see if it includes cover if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness benefit as this usually allows policyholders to claim the death benefit early if a medical consultant confirms they have less than 12 months to live. 

Which is the best life insurance company if I have previously suffered from cancer?

Every life insurance company has a team of underwriters and each team of underwriters work to a different set of guidelines. These guidelines are not available directly to most life insurance applicants so it is tricky to work out which life insurance company to approach and given that an application may take months to process depending on how quickly your doctor returns your information, selecting the right life insurance company is vital to avoid having to make multiple life insurance applications.

A life insurance specialist* who acts as a broker and works on your behalf will use their extensive understanding of how life insurance and cancer work. Even in more complex cancer cases, a life insurance broker will be able to do the leg work to ensure that they select the life insurance company you should apply to - this saves you time and effort and will provide you with the best outcome. 

Cancer is one of the trickier conditions to predict however as there is such a broad range of cancer types. There are additional factors to consider such as the severity, the type of treatment received and the age at which you were diagnosed. It requires extensive knowledge in order to understand which insurer is the best fit and is likely to accept you with the lowest possible increase to your monthly premiums, a job that an independent specialist can do for you, free of charge.

The issue with life insurance comparison sites and online life insurance calculators is that they provide you with life insurance quotes based solely on your age and smoker status and this means that your history of cancer has not been considered as part of the search. Selecting a life insurance company from a list of companies returned to you on this type of search will usually put you with cheaper life insurance providers who may be risk-averse and stand a higher likelihood of declining your life insurance application once your cancer history is disclosed. 

We have personally vetted the services of one of the UK's leading life insurance brokers* that specialises in finding the best possible life insurance policy for those who have suffered cancer. An independent specialist is not tied to any single life insurance company and so will provide you with the best possible cover, based on the likely outcome (having taken all of your medical information into consideration). They will even be able to chase the insurer on your behalf, as well as help to put your policy into trust meaning any payout is paid directly to your beneficiaries without going through your estate for probate and potentially becoming liable for inheritance tax.

To speak to an adviser, with no obligation to take things further, simply complete the form via the above link. The firm employs strong ethics and will only ever offers life cover if it is the best policy to suit your personal needs. As a Money to the Masses reader, you will receive up to £100 cashback if you buy your life insurance this way.


If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch