According to the American Society of Hematology, blood cancers affect the production and function of your blood cells. It ends up preventing your blood from performing many of its functions, such as fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.
Approximately every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. September is both Life Insurance Awareness Month and Blood Cancer Awareness Month. In this post, let’s discuss the different types of blood cancers and how these conditions can affect buying life insurance.
What are the different types of blood cancers?
There are three main types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. An estimated 1,519,907 Americans are either living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma.
Leukemia – cancer of the body’s blood forming tissues.
- Mainly affects bone marrow and the lymphatic system
- Usually affects white blood cells – the infection fighting cells
- There are many types of leukemia
Lymphoma – cancer of the lymphatic system.
- Affects the lymphatic system – the body’s germ-fighting network – which includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, and bone marrow
- There two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Myeloma – cancer of plasma cells.
- Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies
- Cancerous plasma cells release too much protein and can cause organ damage
- Cancerous plasma cells can also crowd the normal cells in your bones and weaken them
How does leukemia affect buying life insurance?
Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly than acute leukemia, which requires immediate treatment.
There are five types of leukemia:
- acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL)
- acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL)
- hairy cell leukemia
- chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
ALL is the most common form of childhood leukemia and AML and CLL are most common in adults.
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Although individuals who have been diagnosed with leukemia generally cannot get preferred life insurance risk classes, that is Preferred Plus or Preferred, once treated with no recurrence, individuals can be considered for Standard life insurance rates.
Risk classes are dependent on:
- the type of leukemia
- your age at diagnosis
- how long it has been since completion of treatment
The more years that have passed since treatment, the better your chances are for qualifying for Standard or Standard Plus.
If you do not qualify for standard risk classes, you may be table rated and/or be required to pay a flat extra. A table rating typically means you will pay the standard prices plus a certain percentage. A flat extra is an additional fee that cushions the risk for the insurance carrier. A flat extra can last the entire life of a policy, or just a few years.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Jane Doe was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when she was 8 years old. She is now 30 years old and it has been over 20 years since treatment was completed. Jane is a non-smoker and aside from her history of childhood cancer, she has a clean bill of health.
She applies for a 30-year $500,000 life insurance policy and is approved at Standard Plus. Her monthly premium payments will be $50.
John Smith was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when he was 18 years old. Part of his treatment was a bone marrow transplant. He is now 32 years old, does not smoke, and it has been 13 years since treatment was completed.
He applies for a 20-year $500,000 life insurance policy and is approved at Table B. His monthly premium payments will be $60.
The cost of a life insurance policy is determined during the underwriting process. Underwriting is the process of evaluating an application and determining a risk class.
Life insurance companies don’t underwrite in the exact same way. Some will be stricter with leukemia than others.
How does lymphoma affect buying life insurance?
There are two categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. The difference between the two is based on the type of cancer cells present.
According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Hodgkin lymphoma is rare, accounting for about .5 percent of all new cancers diagnosed. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common being the seventh most diagnosed cancer.
In the majority of cases, applicants with a history of lymphoma will be assigned a flat extra for the first few years, unless a good number of years (like ten) have passed since treatment.
Let’s take a look at an example.
John Doe is a 54-year-old male, non-smoker, applying for a 20-year $250,000 term policy. He was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma five years ago. He went through chemotherapy that same year and continued preventative treatment for two years following. There has been no sign of recurrence. He gets check-ups once per year.
John is approved at Table B with a flat extra of $15 per thousand for five years. Here’s what all that means. John is getting $250,000 in coverage, so to calculate the flat extra you multiply 15 by 250. John will have to pay an extra $3750 per year on top of his normal premiums for five years. Once year five is over, his premiums will drop to the regular Table B premium which will be $140 per month.
Again, no life insurance company underwrites the same way. There are insurance carriers that would decline John outright. This is why working with an independent agency like Quotacy is beneficial. We have contracts with multiple A-rated carriers, so your chances of being approved are better.
How does myeloma affect buying life insurance?
Myeloma has different forms, but 90 percent of people who have been diagnosed with myeloma have multiple myeloma. It’s called such because it affects several areas of the body versus just one site.
There is currently no cure for multiple myeloma, so life insurance approval may prove difficult. Unless you have had a bone marrow transplant, an applicant diagnosed with multiple myeloma will typically be declined for life insurance. Myeloma is, however, the least commonly diagnosed type of blood cancers.
Plasmacytoma and localized myeloma diagnoses—these are forms of myeloma in which cancer cells are found in only one site—have higher chances of life insurance approval. Standard rates are even possible if enough years have passed since treatment.
If you have a history of blood cancers, don’t hesitate to apply for life insurance. Applying for life insurance is free and there is no commitment to buy.
Here at Quotacy we have access to many life insurance carriers and will help to get you approved for coverage. Start out by using our term quoting tool to run as many quotes as you would like – no contact information required. We look forward to helping you get life insurance.
Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article accurate as of September 14, 2021. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.
About the writer
Natasha Cornelius, CLU
Senior Editor and Licensed Life Insurance Expert
Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.