How Does Cancer Prevention Affect Life Insurance?

    Cancer prevention is not only a critical aspect of public health but also holds significant implications for the life insurance industry. By focusing on primary prevention measures, insurers can mitigate the impact of cancer-related claims and promote healthier policyholders. 

    Additionally, supporting early cancer detection through innovative screening technologies can further enhance the industry’s ability to provide comprehensive coverage. In this era of advanced medical knowledge and technology, the synergy between healthcare and life insurance has never been more promising.

    So, how does cancer prevention impact life insurance?

    Cancer is a relentless adversary that affects millions of lives worldwide, causing both morbidity and mortality. In 2019 alone, there were over 23 million new cancer cases and 10 million cancer-related deaths globally. The financial burden of cancer claims has an influence on various insurance product lines, including critical illness, term life, and disability. 

    Let’s take a look at the modifiable risk factors, prevention strategies, and the potential business impact on the insurance industry.

    The Power of Prevention

    In addition to advancements in treatment, cancer can be prevented by taking measures that reduce incidence and promote early detection. These can significantly improve both morbidity and mortality rates. 

    A 2022 analysis published in The Lancet revealed that nearly half of all cancers and cancer-related deaths could be prevented using existing knowledge. In spite of this, a significant proportion of tumours are still linked to modifiable risks. 

    Insurance providers can help their customers take better care of their health by incentivising preventative measures. That could lead to healthier individuals who take care of their health, even if it is to reduce their insurance premiums.

    Understanding Modifiable Risk Factors

    Cancer risk factors can be categorised as modifiable or non-modifiable. Modifiable factors include behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and combinations of these, which increase cancer risks. According to The Lancet analysis, modifiable risks accounted for a staggering 44% of cancer-related deaths globally in 2019. Notably, smoking, alcohol consumption, and metabolic risks like obesity were the leading culprits in regions with a high socio-economic index.

    Smoking and alcohol use, in particular, significantly increase the risk of various cancers. While many countries have made progress in reducing tobacco exposure through taxation and advertising bans, smoking remains a global health risk. Alcohol consumption, when combined with smoking, can exacerbate the risk further.

    The Rise of Metabolic Risks

    Factors like obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and diabetes—all of which are metabolic risks—are on the rise. These risks are associated with a range of cancers, including breast, colorectal, uterine, ovarian, kidney, liver, pancreas, oesophagus, and gallbladder cancer. 

    The drivers behind these risks include inflammation, metabolic changes, hormonal factors, and shifts in the gut microbiome. The increasing incidence of obesity-related cancers among younger individuals is also a huge cause for concern.

    Obesity strategies are essential to combat this trend. In the UK, measures like the sugar levy on soft drinks show promise in reducing obesity among students. Insurers can play a role in supporting customers’ metabolic health improvements through health and lifestyle apps and premium incentives. However, ensuring compliance and adherence remains a challenge.

    The Holistic Approach to Metabolic Health

    Addressing metabolic health requires a holistic approach tailored to the specific drivers of poor metabolic health. Key factors include education, access to quality nutrition, motivation, and time. 

    Insurers can take lessons from the transition to smoker/non-smoker portfolios and work toward optimising metabolic health among their policyholders.

    Cancer in Life Insurance

    When claims data from UK and Ireland portfolios was analysed, it revealed that cancer is the leading cause of claims in critical illness and term life insurance. This trend underscores the potential for primary prevention measures to have a significant positive impact on the insurance business. 

    Specifically, cancers linked to modifiable risks, such as smoking and metabolic illness, dominate insurance claims.

    While primary prevention efforts are crucial, cancer can’t be entirely eliminated. Therefore, early detection through screening is vital. Traditional single-cancer screening strategies, like mammography and colonoscopy, were disrupted during the pandemic. 

    New technologies, such as multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, offer promise. These tests can detect multiple cancers with a single blood sample, potentially revolutionising early cancer detection. The UK NHS-Galleri MCED trial, with its potential to reduce late-stage cancer incidence and mortality, exemplifies the exciting possibilities. Insurers can play a role in this.
    Of course, whilst cancer prevention does help life insurance providers, the focus should always be on the client. It is important to give consumers a good experience when they purchase life insurance. Using life insurance software as provided by companies like Zinnia can ensure a better customer experience for your customers.

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