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The word cancer used in reference to anything to do with life insurance usually conjures up visions of declines and huge rates. In that regard skin cancer is something of a different animal.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in both men and women, mostly thanks to the fact that most of us had no idea that sun could be harmful 30 and 40 years ago as we religiously broiled ourselves at Memorial Day lake parties. There are three types of skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma, sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common. It is most frequently seen in light complected people. Basal cell has about a 95% cure rate, so it isn’t the most feared cancer by any stretch, but recent surveys have shown that multiple basal cell instances put a person at higher risk of more dangerous skin cancer. This fact has not been lost on life insurance underwriters who, as recent as five years ago, didn’t rate basal cell at all, not even multiple instances. Now, while most companies will let a single instance slide, multiple instances may bump a person to standard rates.

Squamous cell carcinoma is almost identical to basal cell except in one aspect. Basal cell, in the 5% of cases where it becomes a problem, generally goes deeper into the skin and can sometimes reach the bone, but it doesn’t spread to other areas of the body. With squamous cell, the cure rate is essentially the same, about 95%. The issue with the other 5% in this case is that squamous cell can spread to other parts of the body. Underwriting on squamous cell will depend on the stage and grade and if it has spread. If it is a low stage and grade with no spread, often preferred rates can be done if there is a single instance. Multiple instances would be standard rates best case.

Melanoma is the last of the skin cancers and although it represents only a few percent of the total skin cancer occurrences, it is responsible for 75% of the deaths. Underwriting melanoma is a whole different ballgame. With a low stage and grade melanoma, the best case would be a rated policy (higher than standard) when you’ve reached one year post treatment. That is best case. Remember, with cancer it is all about stage and grade. I’ve seen melanoma history get no better than standard 10 or more years after treatment.

Bottom line. Skin cancer is not an issue that you want to tackle without an independent agent. Most life insurance companies will be more cautious than I have described.