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Perspective

Melanoma’s Growing Impact on Benefits Products

November 23, 2015| Von Mary Enslin | Critical Illness | English

Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but it accounts for up to 75% of all skin cancer fatalities. Someone dies of melanoma every hour.

Rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years. In fact, of the seven most common cancers in the US, melanoma is the only one with an increasing incidence. Worldwide, it’s estimated that on average 2.1% of adults will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin at some point during their lifetime.

Malignant melanoma tumours usually occur as a result of ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. People with fair skin who live in sunny countries are most at risk. Most commonly found on the skin, melanoma can also develop in the eyes, underneath nails and inside the nose and mouth.

It’s an aggressive cancer that advances quickly and spreads to other parts of the body if allowed to develop. On a positive note, if it’s recognised and treated early, melanoma is almost always curable with little or no residual impairment.

From an insurance point of view, the rising incidence of melanoma could have a significant effect on critical illness (CI) claims experience.

Cancer is frequently the leading cause of CI claims in both males and females, so it follows that claims assessors need to be aware of how changes in medical technology and in CI product design will affect claims experience.

For example, detailed information regarding staging is important for distinguishing melanoma from other skin cancers (many of which are explicitly excluded from CI policies) and from pre-cancerous conditions.

In the context of non-disclosure and misrepresentation, it could be difficult to determine whether a melanoma existed prior to the claimant taking out the policy. A mole could have been present for many years, but the claimant might not have been aware of it or not have considered it worth disclosing.

Disability product lines also can be affected by melanoma, and melanoma disability claims can be complicated: The treatment is often more disabling than the cancer itself, with doctors reticent to comment on prognosis. A study in the US found that annual productivity losses attributable to melanoma totalled around $2.85 billion in 2014.

As melanoma incidence continues to rise, insurers can expect to see an increase in claims across benefits – and they won’t always be straightforward. For more on melanoma claims, including case studies, read my article Melanoma Monday – An Update On Skin Cancer Claims.

 

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