When it comes to life insurance, cancer is, quite literally, the biggest killer. Payments are made very day for people who either have critical illness cover that envelopes cancer or a family life insurance claim is made for someone who has lost their battle with cancer. Research is being carried out constantly in the battle against this terrible disease and sufferers and life insurance companies alike will be glad to know that advancements are being made.
Prevention will always be preferable to cure and we are often advised of how to look after ourselves to reduce the chances of cancer developing and we are also warned of the signs and symptoms to look out for in order to catch these things early, allowing for the best possible prognosis. But who would have thought that the dentist would be that much help?
Scientists have discovered that those with gum disease have a much higher risk of developing cancer at some stage in their lives and, once they are aware of that fact, can be more tuned in to the warning signs. But what is the connection?
Bleeding gums is a sign of gum disease. If this is left untreated it will lead to cavities, receding gums and tooth loss. This allows an entrance way for bacteria and plaque. The Lancet Oncology has recently published a study that claims this can then lead to general inflammation within the body and that, along with a weakened immune system, creates a perfect breeding ground for cancer cells.
From this, we can determine that oral health has a much more significant effect on our overall wellbeing than previously thought. Life insurance premiums are always more expensive for smokers than non-smokers. Will this also become the case for those who cannot prove regular dental check-ups?
Of course, smoking causes gum disease as well as cancers so to rule out this effect on the test results, all smokers were taken out of the equation. The incidents of those with gum disease and cancer then rose to 21 per cent so there is obviously a link of some sort. A group of just under 50,000 men were followed for a period of almost eighteen years and of those that suffered gum disease, 36 per cent had a higher risk of lung cancer, 54 per cent pancreatic cancer and 49 per cent kidney cancer compared to men with no gum disease.
Patients with kidney cancer have the problem of late diagnosis leading to difficult treatment and premature deaths. For those who know they have gum disease, they can then be on the look-out for the symptoms. Kidney cancer causes 3,600 deaths per year in the UK out of 7,000 diagnoses cases so we can see from these figures that prognosis is not good enough.
To that end, a new drug has been developed and successfully trialled for the treatment of kidney cancer. For those suffering with this disease, the drug Sutent has been found to have the least side effects and can prolong life for more than six months, even putting some patients into complete remission.
The new drug works by cutting off the blood supply to the tumour, preventing further growth which sounds like a good grounding for a cure. However, there is one huge drawback and that is the price. It costs 2,000 pounds a month to supply Sutent with the first month free.
It seems unfair that drugs that could improve or extend lives of kidney cancer patients will be so limited because of cost and until the price comes down, people will continue dying early from this disease and life insurance companies will continue to feel the financial brunt of it.
Health expert Catherine Harvey looks at the news that could see life insurance premiums reduced.