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Lucy Brown: Protection providers need to go further on cancer contracts

Earlier this month, World Cancer Day raised awareness of the disease that continues to affect so many of us.

There are few people who will not know someone who has been affected by cancer in some way. Cancer affects people of all ages and health types; it does not discriminate and those affected can often be the least likely you would expect to fall ill.

That said, I read a particularly interesting article recently. According to the American Cancer Society, cancers linked to obesity are rising at a faster rate in millennials than in older generations in the US.

In fact, researchers found that the rates of six out of 12 obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic and multiple myeloma – a blood cancer) had all gone up, particularly in people under the age of 50.

It is also worrying to read that the younger the people were in the study, the steeper their risk increased with obesity, particularly for those in their 20s and 30s.

Cancer Research UK has some interesting information of its own, stating obesity is the second-biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK. In fact, more than one in 20 cancer cases are linked to being obese.

While this should be balanced against the reduction in cancers linked to smoking and infections, it did lead me to think about whether more could be done within the industry to stem the rapid rise in obesity among the younger generation, and lower their exposure to obesity-linked cancer.

As Cancer Research says: “Small changes that are kept up over time can make a real difference.”

Providers have taken big steps to offer more comprehensive contracts over the past few years, including additional payments for early-stage cancers and improving definitions.

Underwriting journeys are also being overhauled to improve customer experience, and claims processes are in the spotlight. But could more be done around engagement in health and wellbeing? This may not only minimise the risk of millennials becoming seriously ill but might in turn also serve to encourage them to become protected.

For example, concepts like Vitality that offer discounts on smart watches and incentivise customers to get more active by offering a fantastic rewards programme. As with Vitality, Aviva also offers discounts on gym memberships.

Alongside product and process reviews, could providers do more work in this area, recognising that promoting the right behaviours can have genuine benefits? Not just in respect of cancer, but also in other high-claim areas, such as heart attacks and strokes, not forgetting improved mental wellbeing.

Sadly, more innovation in this area is not going to solve the problem. But if it could go some way to helping more people become aware of the positive rewards of staying healthy and limiting their risks of certain types of cancer, it would be a very positive step forward.

Lucy Brown is head of protection at London & Country

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There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I think the answer is yes, there’s an opportunity for insurers to become part of the solution that stands to benefit all concerned.

    Even without doing a full-blown Vitality style approach, there’s plenty of options available which can contribute to moving in the right direction. And most companies would benefit from trying out some of these amongst their own staff.

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