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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

My husband is a prostate cancer survivor. Can he get life insurance?

The answer is probably "yes." As treatments advance and survival rates improve, life insurance companies take note and change their underwriting practices to take these positive changes into account.

MassMutual, for instance, announced in late 2010 that it broadened its guidelines for prostate cancer survivors to make it easier for them to qualify for life insurance. As a result, the company said it would be able to cover most prostate cancer survivors. Other life insurance companies have made similar changes.

Besides skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society. About one in six men will be diagnosed with the disease at some point.

Whether your husband qualifies for life insurance and the price he pays for coverage depend on a number of factors, including his age at the time of diagnosis, the stage and extent of the cancer, the type of treatment, when he completed treatment and the follow-up results.

Underwriting guidelines vary among life insurance companies, so don't give up hope if he gets turned down, or if one company quotes him a high insurance rate. Another company might have more favorable guidelines for prostate cancer survivors.

Consider working with a life insurance agent who has experience finding coverage for cancer survivors. Impaired risk specialists are independent agents who work with clients with health histories or risky hobbies that make it trickier to qualify for decent life insurance rates. Rather than representing one company, these agents sell products from a variety of insurers, and they know which companies are more likely to offer the best rates for their clients' circumstances.

For more, see Beating the odds: How to buy life insurance after being diagnosed with cancer.

Last updated: Jan. 9, 2012