Colorectal cancers are the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Fortunately, this has lead to an increase in the awareness of colorectal cancers and an emphasis on pre-screening and prevention.
Despite the increase in earlier detection and survival rates, life insurance companies are often strict about insuring individuals who have been diagnosed with this type of cancer or are at risk for this type of cancer.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancers
Risk factors refer to anything that affects your chances of being diagnosed with a disease, in this case, colorectal cancers.
It is important to note that just because you have a risk factor that is on this list does not mean you absolutely will get the disease.
There are measures you can take to live a healthier lifestyle and decrease your risk.
Some of the factors your agent will look for:
Such as being overweight or obese. If you’ve noticed a pattern of this our blog pointing out weight as a risk factor, good! The links between diet, exercise, and weight are some of the strongest risk factors for developing any type of cancer.
Diets that rely heavily on red or processed meats (or even on cooking meats at high temperatures) are linked to the development of colorectal cancers, as is physical inactivity.
Other lifestyle factors, such as smoking or heavy alcohol consumption have also been linked to colorectal cancer.
Age is, unfortunately, also linked to the development of this type of cancer, as is your history of colorectal polyps or cancer. If you have had either cancer or polyps removes, you increase your likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.
The risk is especially increased if you were younger when you had the polyps or cancer removed.
The presence of certain diseases
The presence of certain diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or Crohn’s disease can also be indicators that you are at risk for developing colorectal cancer.
This is because these diseases create dysplasia in the bowels. Dysplasia occurs when the cells of the colon or rectum look abnormal when viewed with a microscope. This cells can develop into cancer over time.
Your family history
Your family history with colorectal cancer is also an indicator. Roughly 1 in 5 people who develop colorectal cancer have had a family history of the disease. Your insurance agent should be made aware of both your personal and family history with colorectal issues, as well as any familial links to inherited diseases such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
Additionally, treatment for other cancers such as testicular cancer or prostate cancer may have an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer.
In addition to these risk factors, if you have had colorectal cancer in the past, your agent is going to look for four key variables when estimating your risk: 1) The stage and grade of your cancer; 2) the type of treatment you received; 3) how much time has passed since your last treatment, and 4) how frequently you visit your physician for follow-ups.
The stage of colorectal cancer is particularly important.
The colon lining consists of 4 layers: the mucosa (the innermost), the submucosa, the muscularis and the serosa (the outermost layer). The further cancer has permeated these layers, the worse the prognosis will be. Equally as important is if the Lymph nodes have been involved, as this leads to early mortality in patients.
Duke’s Staging System
The most commonly used colorectal cancer staging system in life insurance risk assessment is the Duke’s Staging System.
This system is divided into four main groups: A, B, C, and D, with stages B and C being divided into two subcategories: B1 and B2, and C1 and C2.
Each category refers to how far the cancer has spread into the four layers of the colon lining. An additional stage, called “carcinoma ‘in-situ’” refers to the presence of cancer in the mucosa, or the innermost layer only, with no lymph node involvement.
Cancer in this stage is typically insurable at a standard rate with the addition of a flat fee.
- Dukes’ Staging A indicates that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes but has penetrated to the submucosa.
- Dukes’ Staging B1 means the cancer has spread to the submucosa but the lymph nodes have not been involved. Stage B2 means that the cancer reached the serosa, but the lymph nodes were also spared.
- Stages C1 and C2 indicate the cancer has spread to the muscularis and the serosa, respectively. In each of these stages, the cancer has also reached the lymph nodes.
- A Stage D denotes that the cancer has spread beyond the colorectal area and into other parts of the body. Typically, this stage is uninsurable with a traditional policy.
The problem with directly correlating these stages to insurance premiums is that they don’t take into consideration all other aspects of your health.
The presence of colorectal cancer does not automatically mean you fit into one of the insurance categories defined by underwriters, rather, your rating should be an average of your overall health and the risk you pose to potential carriers.
Pro Tips on Earning the Best Ratings
In order to get an accurate assessment of your premiums, your insurance agent will need your most up-to-date and accurate medical records.
This way, he or she will be able to assess your whole health picture – past present and future – and will be able to present you with the most accurate premium estimates.
You should also be frequently providing your agent with updated medical records – particularly if they show positive strides in the state of your overall health, as this could lower your premiums.
By following your doctor’s orders to the letter and frequently communicating your progress with your insurance agent, you will be able to find the premium price that works for you.
Perhaps the best bit of advice we can give here is to not get discouraged. It may take some time for you to find a company that will work with you or to earn a better rating.
Just remember: when it comes to your life insurance coverage, a little patience goes a long way!