Life Insurance With A Family History Of Cancer

Life Insurance With  Family Cancer History

By James Tobin, CFP

Last Updated on

Critical Takeaways

  • Family History can negatively affect rates with the wrong carrier
  • An Independent agent can choose  the carrier that is the best fit for your situation
Life Insurance With A Family History Of Cancer

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Expert Review Of  Life Insurance With  Family Cancer History

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Reviewed by

Jim Tobin, CFP®

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At Life Insurance Help Desk, we value our editorial independence. We keep our reviews strictly factual so you can use them to make informed decisions. Life insurance carriers referred to on this site do not approve reviews. 

If you have had your family's life impacted by cancer of a parent or sibling, you know all about the emotional and financial toll it can take.

What you  may not know is the impact it may have on YOUR life insurance application.

If your family has a history of cancer, particularly a death before age 60 or 65, you opportunity to obtain the best health class will be significantly limited.

The purpose of this article is to give some background on how family history impacts life insurance ratings and provide the information you will need to get the best deal possible.

What Is A Family Cancer History?

If that sounds like a stupid question, you need to understand it is meant in the context of life insurance underwriting, 

Life insurance carriers all have different rule for how a family history affects an application

 For instance, some carriers will consider your parents but not siblings. Other carriers will will not be concerned if  the cancer didn't cause a death until after age 65. 

So. in the context of life insurance underwriting, the answer to the question  "what is a family history of cancer" is not so straight forward.

In fact, the answer is specific to the carrier underwriting the application. 

Why Does A Family Cancer History Affect Your Health Class?

So you  understand that insurance companies charge more for people who have a family history that includes cancer, but think it should matter more that you are in great shape. 

The good news is that there are a few carriers that agree with you, however most do not. 

In spite of the fact that you may be perfectly healthy, or that your parent who got cancer smoked and lived a lifestyle that did not promote good health, insurance carries often just look at the actuarial charts.

Cancer  affects about 8% of the population directly and is the second leading cause of death i the United States. the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 5-10% of all cancers stem from inherited genetic mutations. 

What Is The Underwriting  Impact On Life Insurance With  Family Caner History?

The impact on your underwriting class if you have a family cancer history is also carrier specific.

Several carriers will not allow a a rate class better than standard if you have parents or siblings who succumbed to cancer prior to age 65. 

This means that if you would have been "preferred plus" (best class) you'd get knocked down 2 levels to "standard". However, if you were already "standard', you would stay there and not be further penalized.  

There are some carriers who are far more concerned with a history of heart disease than cancer and will flag your file for a family history of  heart disease but not cancer.  

While several carriers will "ding" your rating for having a family history that include cancer, none of them will require an attending physicians statement (APS) as a result.

How An Independent Agent Can Help With A Family History Of Cancer

Because the underwriting guidelines are significantly different across carriers, it is imperative that you use an independent agency like ours to get the best deal possible. 

While, that may sound  a little self serving , it has the benefit of being  true

Having access to 50+ carriers allows an independent agent flexibility that is not available to a so called "captive agent". By captive agent, I am referring to agents who work directly for a carrier and have a big financial incentive to send all of their business to that one carrier-whether it's the best fit or not.   

For example Prudential Financial may have more of an appetite for the risk that Cancer presents than say Protective. In this case the underwriting grade will reflect this increased appetite.

So, if your Agent only represented one carrier and you found out later that that you could have gotten a rate 35% or 45% better, how would you feel?

You can bet that if the  "home" company is not the best deal available that he'll be in no hurry to tell you that. After all, he has a mortgage to pay too.

Case Study: Life Insurance With Family History Of Cancer

Please see the case study below . it will show why it is in your interest to have as many options as possible available when shopping for life insurance with family history of cancer or any other impairment.

Gender: Male Age: 43

$500000 20 Year Term

Tobacco: No

 No  Health Concerns

Family history of Cancer (Mother died at 67 From Lung cancer)

This looks like a standard/preferred case that might get a better rating with one or two carriers. depending on the insurers appetite for a family history of cancer risk.. Let's take a look at the rates.

  • Standard Rates
  • Table 2/B Rates
  • Table 4/D Rates

Life Insurance Company

Monthly Payment

$ 77.31

$ 77.32

$ 78.53


$ 94.73

This table which shows only a few of the major life insurance companies available illustrates the difference in rates. For standard rates Prudential is 12.5% more expensive than Lincoln.

On its' face this seems like a pretty straightforward choice and if underwriting grades between carriers is the same, it really can be that simple.

For people who have family histories of serious conditions or current  diagnosis, it gets much more complicated.

Because life insurers manage their appetite for specific risks by being more lenient or more stringent with underwriting grades, you need to know which company will grade you a preferred plus risk and which ones will grade you as standard.

In the case above Prudential (the most expensive standard rate) is likely to be the best deal because the more competitively priced carriers will likely rate the risk standard while Pru might well go Preferred Plus.

This is something you can't know by simply looking at the lowest price. In this hypothetical using an independent agent could save you 50% (the difference between Prudential @ Preferred plus and Lincoln @ Standard.

Your Next step

Now that you know the information you will need to receive the most accurate quote possible, it's time to gather the information and speak to an independent Agent (raising my hand).

Simply give us a call or shoot an email over and we can get you started.

We are committed to totally transparent pricing (we'll even share our computer screen with you if you'd like), and making the application process as painless as possible.

If you have any questions, We'd like to hear them.

Bonus: The most common mistakes people make buying life insurance and how to avoid them

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