With the majority of skin cancer being basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both almost underwriting non issues unless there have been multiple instances, the challenge lies mostly under the melanoma heading. As I’ve stated with so many other types of cancer, the improvements in detection and treatment have made this once instant decline into a possible approval.
That said, like virtually all cancers, the lower the stage and grade the better the chances of approval. The good news is that most people no longer ignore moles when they show up from seemingly nowhere these days. I remember growing up as a kid and when anyone got a mole the worst thing we were concerned with was the look of it and, ah, the good old days, we just went to the store and got OTC freeze your mole stuff. If it came back we would freeze it again and if it was persistent enough we would go to the doctor and get a professional freeze job. I can’t remember melanoma being much of a known entity back then and I honestly don’t remember anyone that ever had a mole biopsied.
Today people have a good understanding of how badly we’ve damaged ourselves by sunburn after sunburn and today moles are cut off and biopsied. With luck they are just in fact a mole and we go on with life, except with instructions to check back in every 6 months to a year or whenever another mole shows up. Or it could just be basal cell carcinoma, a skin cancer to be sure, but from a life insurance underwriting view, not much to worry about. Some companies will try to rate you (raise your rate) for just one instance of basal cell, but most will still go best rate class. With multiple basal cell instances there is a chance you won’t get the best rate, but it’s still worth shopping. Even people with basal cell carcinoma nevus syndrome where they might have several removed in any given year, standard rates are possible.
Squamous cell carcinoma really falls into the same life insurance underwriting category as basal cell carcinoma unless it is a higher stage and grade. While squamous cell can show up internally as well which puts it in a different category, most squamous cell skin cancer is found while it is still low stage and grade. The underwriting pretty much mirrors what I laid out for basal cell life insurance underwriting above.
Then comes the M word. As I started this post out, the good news is that this is 2012 and not 1962. Exp0sure to the sun and the way moles and other skin lesions are looked at and treated is a world away from 50 years ago. It wasn’t that long ago that very few companies would approve life insurance for melanoma at all (keeping in mind that only about 1% of life insurance companies will ever look outside the box call their underwriting manual). The companies that would approve it were at a best case standard rate. On low stage (1 or 2) and low grade Clarks level 1 or 2 or shallow Breslow thickness we are routinely getting standard plus rates with a few companies toying with the idea of preferred rates when you are 10 years out from the cancer.
Bottom line. The number of companies that are moving in the right direction on melanoma life insurance underwriting is very encouraging. It’s always nice when several companies are in the mix. Not that I don’t like to reward one aggressive company, but what happens when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed? If you have any questions or don’t believe you’ve gotten a fair shake on skin cancer underwriting, call or email me directly. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.