Everything You Need to Know About Skin Cancer & Life Insurance
If you or a loved one is dealing with a form of skin cancer then you already know about the day to day rituals needed to avoid sun exposure.
A prominent cancer site skincancer.org even makes New Years resolution ideas to lesson the risks of skin cancer.
While, you may know about the inconveniences, what you may not be aware of is the impact skin cancer can have on a life insurance application.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a form of skin cancer or are looking on behalf of a family member, the purpose of this article is to lay out the facts about skin cancer and how it affects the process and cost of obtaining life insurance.
If you already know more about skin cancer than you care to think about, you can use the quick navigation tool on the right to scroll to the life insurance portion of this article.
What Your Friends and Co-workers (May) Know About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common of the cancers and luckily, the most treatable. Nonetheless, there are about 100000 cases of melanoma (the most common form) a year diagnosed in the United States and close to 9000 deaths.
Prior to the early twentieth century a tanned skin was not thought to be attractive. Tanned skin was relegated to field workers. This started to change when Coco Chanel returned from the French Riviera vacation with a tan and fans loved it.
Until the early twentieth century a tanned skin was not thought to be attractive. Tanned skin was generally reserved for field laborers. Perception of the tanned look began to change when Coco Chanel returned from a French Riviera vacation looking bronzed and her fans began to follow suit.
Sadly, left untreated , Marley would die from Melanoma.
Sadly, the condition, left untreated, took Marley's life.
What is Skin Cancer
The Mayo Clinic defines the skin cancer as — the abnormal growth of skin cells and states that the condition most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. However, this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.
There are three major types of skin cancer:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
Mayo Clinic advises that you can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages.
Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.
What Are The Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The Cleveland Clinic points out that the most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole.
- Basal cell carcinoma might appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck; or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that might itch, bleed, and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
- Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It might resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance. Thinking of the ABCD rule tells you what signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry—The shape of one half doesn't match the other.
- Border—The edges are ragged or blurred.
- Color—Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue might be present.
- Diameter—A change in size occurs (greater than 6 mm).
The Cleveland Clinic also encourages you to "be alert to pre-cancerous skin lesions that can develop into non-melanoma skin cancer. They appear as small scaly, tan or red spots, and are most often found on surfaces of the skin chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face and backs of the hands."
How is Skin cancer Diagnosed?
Skin cancer is diagnosed by performing a biopsy. This is the removal of a sample of tissue that is then placed under a microscope and examined by a pathologist. Sometimes, a biopsy can remove all the cancer tissue and no further treatment is needed.
What are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
In doing the research for this article I came to think very differently about the risks I (and many others) took as children. I now view a serious sunburn as far more than a painful inconvenience.
The American Academy of Dermatology lists the risk factors for skin cancer as such:
- Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer.
- Avoiding this risk factor alone could prevent more than 3 million cases of skin cancer every year.
- Research indicates that UV light from the sun and tanning beds can both cause melanoma and increase the risk of a benign mole progressing to melanoma.
- Increasing intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
- Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person's chance of developing melanoma.
- Experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases one’s melanoma risk by 80 percent and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 68 percent.
- In 2010, new research found that daily sunscreen use cut the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in half.
- People older than 65 may experience melanoma more frequently because of UV exposure they've received over the course of their lives.
- Higher melanoma rates among men may be due in part to lower rates of sun protection.
- Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women 45 and younger.
- Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.
- In females 15 to 29 years old, the torso/trunk is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be due to high-risk tanning behaviors.
- Higher melanoma rates among young females compared to young males may be due in part to widespread use of indoor tanning among females.
- Risk factors for all types of skin cancer include skin that burns easily; blond or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; immune system-suppressing diseases or treatments; and a history of skin cancer.
- People with more than 50 moles, atypical moles, or large moles are at an increased risk of developing melanoma, as are those with light skin and freckles, and those with a personal or family history of melanoma.
- Melanoma survivors have an approximately nine-fold increased risk of developing another melanoma compared to the general population.
- Men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than people without a nonmelanoma skin cancer history.
- Women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing leukemia, breast, kidney and lung cancers, and men with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
What are the Common Treatments for Skin Cancer?
With all the misery that various cancers have brought upon people, "luck" is a strange word to use when discussing treatments. Nonetheless, "lucky" is a common sentiment , as most people who have skin cancer diagnosed have it detected prior to it spreading.
Melanoma that has spread to organs presents a more serious challenge.
treatments for skin cancer are surgical, pharmaceutical and homeopathic., usually in combination.
Small tumors can be surgically excised, removed with a scraping tool and then cauterized, frozen with liquid nitrogen, or killed with low-dose radiation.
Larger tumors must be removed via a surgical procedure.
Melanoma tumors have be removed surgically, ideally before they spread beyond the skin to other organs. The surgeon removes the tumor , along with a safe area of surrounding tissue. There is dispute whether removing nearby lymph nodes is valuable in certain cases.
In cases where surgery is not the first choice, applying an ointment containing a chemotherapeutic agent called 5-fluorouracil or an immune response modifier called imiquimod to a superficial tumor for several weeks may work.
Neither radiation nor chemotherapy will cure advanced melanoma, but either may slow the growth. Chemotherapy, used in combination with immunotherapies is the preferred care. If melanoma spreads to the brain, radiation is used to slow the progress of the disease.
Skin experts have long believed that zinc and vitamins A, C, & E can help repair damaged skin and promote healthy tissues . Now, WebMD reports that researchers are trying to determine whether these and other nutrients might protect skin from the harmful effects of sunlight.
Obtaining Life Insurance with Skin Cancer
With a couple of caveats, the process of obtaining life insurance is essentially the same for everyone regardless of health.
The primary caveats with skin cancer are that no exam or so called “non-med” policies will only be available in very small face amounts in most cases. Also, an attending physician's statement (APS) is guaranteed to be requested.
The APS can slow the process as doctors are in no hurry to respond to requests from life insurance companies.
The information that you will be required to provide in order to get the most accurate quote is as follows:
Date of Diagnosis
Type of skin cancer diagnosed, the number of episodes, the most recent.
Affected body part/area
- Has the cancer spread (metastasized)?
Dates of Treatments
For cases of malignant melanoma there are specific additional questions.
- Stage grading (stage 0, stage la, stage lb, stage lla, stage llb, stage llc ,stage lll, stage lV
- Pathological stage
- Thickness MM
- Spread to lymph nodes?
- Current medications (related or not to skin cancer)
Key Take Aways
- Access to no exam policies may be limited, depending on the history of skin cancer.
- If an APS is required , the process will take longer.
- Only accurate details of treatment undertaken will result in an accurate quote.
Possible Underwriting Ratings with Skin Cancer
Because Life insurance applications are evaluated on a case by case basis, your story matters.
That is to say two people with the same age and condition may get vastly different offers from the same carrier based on age of diagnosis and patient compliance.
Because each case is different, the following pricing scenarios are the best estimates based on experience.
Best Case- Most basal cell cases are rated standard or better. If, however, you have had multiple occurrences you could get bumped to a mid case scenario. Squamous cell cases , while more dangerous can also qualify for best case scenarios if the cancer has been removed , some time has passed, and there has been diligent follow up.
Simply use the quoter on the left for a standard quote.
Mid Case- If your case of Squamous cell was more involved and had spread before removal you may be looking at a mid substandard rate.
The same situation may aply for melanoma, if it was detected early stage and some period has passed. You calculate this rate by multiplying the standard rate by 1.5 (Table 2/B) or 2 (table 4/D).
To learn about how table ratings work click here.
Severe Case- In cases of mid and later stage melanoma, the best you will likely do is a severe substandard rate. You calculate this rate by multiplying the standard rate by 3 (Table 6/F) or 4 (table 8/H).
* while expensive this is still a very good outcome for the circumstances
Decline– For a severe case you may be declined for traditional coverage. If this is the case you may be eligible for a smaller face amount policy. These policies are referred to as Guaranteed issue or simplified issue. If you have been declined please contact us.
Why you Should Use an Independent Agent when Shopping for Life Insurance with Skin Cancer
Now you already understand that your story matters, and that two people in similar situations can get very different offers from the same carrier.
What you might not know is that different insurance companies will also treat each case differently.
For example Prudential may have more of an appetite for the risk that Skin Cancer presents than say Banner Life. 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 50% or 60% better, how would you feel?
You’d probably be mad either at the agent or yourself or both. So it’s important that your Agent represent multiple carriers.
In fact a good independent agent will have access to over 50 carriers. This ensures the best chance at a good rate.
Note that if he doesn’t, he probably won’t be in a hurry to let you in on this info.
Case Study Pricing Policies with Skin Cancer
So, I have been preaching about the importance of using an independent Agent and you may think that sounds a little self serving coming from an independent agent.
You are right, it is. However, it is also the undeniable ( and provable) truth.
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 skin cancer or any other impairment.
Gender: Female Age: 29
$1000000 20 Year Term
History of Mild Skin Cancer
NSAID only No Other Health Concerns
This looks like a best case scenario that would be either standard or Table 2/B or 4/D depending on the insurers appetite for a skin cancer risk.. Let’s take a look at the rates.
Standard Rates Table 2/B Rates Table 4/D Rates
|Carrier||Mo. Pymt||Carrier||Mo. Pymt||Carrier||Mo. Pymt|
This table which shows only a few of the major life insurance companies available illustrates the difference in rates.For standard rates Lincoln is 35% more expensive than Banner.
On it’s face this seems like a pretty straight forward choice and if underwriting grades between carriers is the same, it really can be that simple. This kind of easy price shopping is particularly useful for younger folks in good health and demonstrates why you want to use an independent Agent.
For people who suffer from skin cancer or any other serious 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 standard or table 2 risk and which ons will grade you as table 4-6.
In the case above Prudential (one of the more expensive standard rates) is likely to be the best deal because the more competitively priced carrier will likely rate the risk table 4 while Pru might well go standard.
This is something you can’t know by simply looking at the lowest price. In this case using an independent agent could save you 29% (the difference between Prudential @ standard and AIG @ Table 4).
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.