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If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or have a history of cancer, your eligibility for life insurance becomes complicated. While your options may be more limited than someone without a history of cancer, there are still plenty of life insurance policies available. 

In most cases, cancer patients only qualify for a guaranteed life insurance policy with limited coverage and restricted payouts during the initial years. However, cancer survivors who recovered and have been in remission for at least 5 years can get a traditional term or permanent life insurance policy, depending on the severity of their diagnosis.

Can you get life insurance if you have cancer? 

If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, then you likely won’t be eligible for traditional coverage — instead, you may have to opt for final expense insurance. Final expense insurance offers a generally low amount of coverage but still provides funds to cover medical expenses or a funeral. 

If you’re in remission, then insurers may offer you traditional coverage, but it depends on a few factors:

  • The date you were diagnosed
  • The type of cancer you had
  • The stage of cancer you had
  • Your treatment history

Before they underwrite a policy, most insurers will use guidelines from the National Cancer Institute’s “Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results” (SEER) database. The database includes anonymized information on millions of people who have undergone treatment for cancer and their outcomes. The report also features expected survival life tables that detail survival statistics for various groups who are in remission.

Insurers will use this information, as well as specifics about your particular case and prognosis to determine what type of policy you qualify for — or if you qualify at all.

Steps to take when applying for life insurance after cancer

Some life insurance companies may be unwilling to provide coverage for someone with a history of cancer, but there are plenty of others who are willing to do so. 

Get quotes from multiple life insurance companies: Each insurance company has its own underwriting guidelines, so even if one company denies you coverage doesn’t mean that all of them will. Be sure to get quotes from multiple companies so that you can compare rates and coverage options.

Apply for final expense life insurance: Final expense life insurance policies are typically more expensive than other policies and do not require a medical exam or health questions. This makes them ideal for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer.

Types of life insurance available to people diagnosed with cancer 

Burial life insurance: If you can’t get traditional life insurance, you may be able to get final expense insurance. Your beneficiaries can use this insurance to pay for funeral expenses, medical expenses or other costs. However, the trade-off with final expense insurance is that the policy amounts are fairly low compared to traditional life insurance. Typically, a final expense policy may have a face value that ranges from $5,000 to $50,000.

Simplified life insurance: Simplified issue term insurance is a type of life insurance that provides insurance quickly. Most people who apply for simplified-issue life insurance have coverage right after they finish the application process. To get a simplified life insurance policy, you just need to answer a few medical questions.

Guaranteed life insurance: Another option is a guaranteed issue policy, which doesn’t involve any medical questions. You also can get a policy with a graded death benefit. 

Life insurance ratings for cancer patients

If you qualify for a policy, insurers will use different ratings to determine your premium. 

These ratings include:

  • Super Preferred (or Preferred Plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard (or Regular)
  • Substandard

The lower your rating, the higher your premium. One example is if you have a less treatable form of cancer like pancreatic cancer, which has a one-year survival rate of only 20%. In that case, an insurer may rate you as substandard. You might not get a policy or only qualify for a more expensive policy if you have a better prognosis or an early stage of this cancer.

However, being diagnosed with certain cancers actually may not hurt your chances of getting a policy. “A history of certain types of skin cancers, such as squamous and basal cell carcinoma, when addressed, often has little to no impact on your life insurance premium,” says John Holloway, a licensed life insurance agent and co-founder of

Frequently asked questions

What life insurance options do I have if I’m denied coverage due to a cancer diagnosis?

If you’re denied coverage due to a cancer diagnosis, you may be able to get life insurance through your employer’s group life insurance plan. The coverage limits on these policies are typically lower. However, pairing a group policy with final expense life insurance may provide some coverage to your beneficiaries if you can’t get term or whole life coverage.

How long after having cancer can you get life insurance?

The longer you’ve been cancer-free, the higher chance that life insurance companies will provide you with a traditional life insurance policy. They might want to wait three or five years after your treatment ends before they offer life insurance.

Will life insurance payout if you die of cancer?

If you have a life insurance policy that covers any cause of death, and you die from cancer while the policy is active, your beneficiaries can claim the death benefit.

How does a family history of cancer affect my eligibility for life insurance?

If people in your family have had cancer, it does not mean you can’t get life insurance. The company you apply to for life insurance will ask about your family’s medical history. They will also want to know how many people have had cancer and how old they were when diagnosed. Every situation is unique, and a family history of cancer doesn’t disqualify you from coverage.


FideltyLife. “Life Insurance for Cancer Patients.” Accessed January 2023.

Progressive. “Life insurance for cancer patients.” Accessed January 2023.

Verywell health. “Best Life Insurance for Cancer Patients.” Accessed January 2023.

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Shivani Gite
Contributing Writer


Shivani Gite is a personal finance and insurance writer with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She is passionate about making insurance topics easy to understand for people and helping them make better financial decisions.