Life insurance and cancer

14 March 2023

1 in 2 people in the UK will at some stage develop a form of cancer, and of course the consequences can be tragic for families.

So it’s little wonder why so many people wish to take out financial protection against the impact cancer would have, and life insurance can be part of that.

There are around 375,000 new cancer cases each year in Britain, so understandably, people want to know whether life insurance covers cancer.

In this guide, we’ll give you the full picture about life and critical illness cover.

Does life insurance cover cancer?

Life insurance pays out a cash sum if you pass away, or if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness during the length of your policy. With Legal & General, a terminal illness is defined as having a definite diagnosis by your hospital consultant of an illness that satisfies both of the following:

  • The illness either has no known cure or has progressed to the point where it cannot be cured; and
  • In the opinion of your hospital consultant and our Medical Officer (a qualified doctor employed by Legal & General), the illness is expected to lead to death within 12 months.

So, if cancer is the cause of death or is the cause of a terminal illness diagnosis then, yes, it is covered. If you add Critical Illness Cover for an extra cost when taking out a life cover policy with us, you’ll have further financial protection in the event you’re diagnosed with a condition covered by the policy. In order to claim for cancer (excluding less advanced cases), your diagnosis would need to meet the definition in the policy booklet.

Which cancers are covered by Legal & General's Critical Illness Cover?

There are around 200 types of cancer, many of which are covered by Legal & General’s Critical Illness Cover. But when it comes to making a claim and meeting the correct definitions of our cover, what matters isn’t just the type of cancer but the extent to which the cancer has spread, and where it originated.

In order for a successful claim to be made, the cancers will need to be classified as not pre-malignant, non-invasive or having low malignant potential, among other factors.

What are the benefits of Critical Illness Cover?

If you need to take time off work to recover following a critical illness diagnosis, the payout from a valid claim could help cover your mortgage, rent or other expenses such as medical bills. Or help with your recovery and adjusting to a new way of life, such as adapting your home to make life easier. 

In 2022 we paid out £224 million in critical illness cover claims, helping 3236 people and their families.

Which cancers are not covered by Legal & General's Critical Illness Cover?

Some types of cancer are not covered by our Critical Illness Cover. For example, we do not currently cover cancers that are 'historically classified' as pre-malignant or non-invasive. The 'historical classification' refers to the type of tissue and location of the body where the cancer started. You can find more information about the conditions covered in our Critical Illness Cover policy booklet. If you already have Critical Illness Cover with us, please refer to your original policy documents for the full terms and conditions and definitions available to you, as the conditions you’re covered for may be different.

Does Critical Illness cover skin cancer?

Some skin cancers are covered by Critical Illness Cover, but it depends on how localised the spread is. Malignant melanoma, for example, is not covered unless it has been ‘histologically classified’ (referring to the scientific study of tissues) as having caused invasion beyond the outer layer of skin, or epidermis. Similarly, Critical Illness Cover can include other skin cancers, when it has been classified as having spread to distant organs or caused invasion in the lymph glands.

Does Critical Illness Cover prostate cancer?

Critical Illness Cover includes tumours of the prostate if the tumour has been classified with a Gleason score of 7 or above – this is the most frequently used grading system for prostate cancer. You can find out more in our Guide to Critical Illness Cover PDF.

Is thyroid cancer covered by critical illness insurance?

It’s possible to make a successful claim on a critical illness insurance policy following a thyroid cancer diagnosis. But it's always important to remember that each claim is looked at individually and other factors may be in taken in to account. For example, we do not currently cover cancers that are 'historically classified' as pre-malignant or non-invasive.

What are the most common forms of cancer?

The four most common types of cancer are breast cancer, bowel cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. Macmillan estimate that there are currently 3 million people living with cancer in the UK, rising to 3.5 million by 2025. This underscores the importance of life insurance and critical illness cover to millions of cancer patients.

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

Depending on the nature and extent of the cancer it’s possible to get life insurance after surviving certain cancers, but there may be a period of time before you can get cover. You will need to tell your insurer about your medical history when you apply for cover, and your insurer will assess whether to offer you a life insurance policy not just on the basis of your cancer history, but your age, other medical information, and how much cover you wish to take out. The amount you pay for a policy (also known as your premium) could be more if you have been diagnosed with cancer in the past.

Similarly, you can get critical illness cover after cancer, but whether you get cover depends on factors like the types of cancer and its severity.

Please remember, life insurance is not a savings or investment product and has no cash value unless a valid claim is made.

Does a family history of cancer affect a life or critical illness cover application?

A family history of cancer can affect both a life and critical illness cover application. For life insurance it may affect the premium that you pay. For example, inherited conditions, like certain types of bowel, breast or ovarian cancers, will be considered during the underwriting process. For Critical Illness Cover, there could be an increase in the premium or an exclusion may be placed on your cover.

Resources for those affected by cancer

We understand that getting a cancer diagnosis is a difficult time for anyone, and for our part, we want to ensure that if you have an existing policy with us, we want making a claim as straightforward as possible. Please see your policy booklet for more information.

Here are some resources with more information about cancer and life insurance, as well as cancer in general.