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1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer. So, how likely am I to be diagnosed with a critical illness?

1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer. So, how likely am I to be diagnosed with a critical illness?

Apr 10, 2021

We insure our pets, our phones, our cars, and our homes in case something bad happens. Local news of burglaries, a friend having a big vet bill, or previous experience dropping a smartphone can all be powerful reasons for us wanting to take out cover.

But why should you insure your health? How likely is it that you’ll be seriously ill at some point in your life?

The truth is that a serious illness can strike any of us, at any time. To help you think about why it’s so important to put the right cover in place, here’s a look at just how likely you are to be diagnosed with a critical illness.



The latest government data revealed that there were 320,395 new malignant cancer diagnoses, excluding non-melanoma skin cancers, in 2018. This means, that on average, 878 cancers were diagnosed each day.

Prostate cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2018, with 49,810 new diagnoses. Prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers account for more than 50% of all new malignant diagnoses.

According to Cancer Research UK (CRUK), men are more likely to get cancer than women. Each year, in the UK around 187,000 men and around 179,000 women are diagnosed with cancer.

CRUK also say that one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Thanks to advances in treatment, half of people diagnosed with cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for ten years or more (2010-11).

Breast cancer

One in seven UK females will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. However, it’s worth considering that almost nine in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer in England survive their disease for five years or more (2013-2017).

CRUK also say that 23% of breast cancer cases in the UK are preventable.

Prostate cancer

One in six UK males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Again, almost nine in 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer in England survive their disease for five years or more (2013-2017).

Lung cancer

One in 13 males and one in 15 females in the UK will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.

79% of lung cancer cases in the UK are preventable, with almost three-quarters of all lung cancer cases in the UK caused by smoking.


Heart attack

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) say that, in the UK, more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year are due to heart attacks. That’s 280 admissions each day, or one every five minutes.

In the 1960s more than seven out of 10 heart attacks in the UK were fatal. Today, thanks to medical advances, at least seven out of 10 people survive. Estimates suggest that around 1.4 million people alive in the UK today have survived a heart attack – around one million men and 380,000 women.

As well as a heart attack, there are many other associated types of heart problem that may lead to you being off work for an extended period or changing your lifestyle. These include coronary heart disease and vascular dementia.



A stroke is a life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. You can remember the main symptoms of a stroke through the FAST acronym:

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side and the person may not be able to smile
  • Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred the person may not be able to talk at all
  • Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

According to the Stroke Association, a stroke will affect someone in the UK every five minutes. 100,000 people have strokes each year and there are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK.


Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition. Your immune system normally protects you by fighting off infection, but in MS it attacks your nerves by mistake. As your nerves control lots of different parts of your body, you can get MS symptoms in many parts of your body.

There is no “cure” for MS, but treatments and specialists can help you to manage the condition and its symptoms.

The MS Society estimate there are more than 130,000 people with MS in the UK, and that nearly 7,000 people are newly diagnosed each year – around 130 people every week.

This means that around one in every 500 people in the UK has MS.


An important note about the statistics

It’s important to remember that there are a range of risk factors that can lead to these illnesses and conditions.

Your risk of developing cancer, or having a heart attack, depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors.

For example, 72% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. And you are more likely to have a heart problem if you are significantly overweight.

Reducing the risk factors can help to reduce your chances of being diagnosed with a critical illness. Taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, giving up smoking, and drinking in moderation can all be positive factors and reduce your chances of a diagnosis.


Critical Illness cover can provide financial support when you need it

These statistics show that many millions of people in the UK will be impacted by a serious condition in their lifetime. If it isn’t you, it could be your spouse, partner, or someone close to you.

How would you cope financially if you were diagnosed with cancer? Or if you had a heart attack or stroke and had to be off work for an extended period? What if you had to adapt your lifestyle to live with MS?

Critical Illness cover is designed to provide a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition. While it might not cover you for minor types of cancer, or a mild heart problem, it will ensure you have financial support if you’re seriously ill.

You can use the money to:

  • Replace your income if you have to take an extended period off work
  • Pay bills and your rent or mortgage
  • Repay some or all your mortgage so you can stay in your home
  • Pay for private or specialist medical care
  • Adapt your home if you need to make changes.

Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that more than nine in 10 Critical Illness claims were paid in 2019, and so insurers have an excellent track record in paying claims. For example, insurer Legal & General paid 92% of Critical Illness claims in 2019, with an average claim of £66,857.

We’re Critical Illness experts and can help you to find the right cover for you – even if you do have a pre-existing medical condition. We work with dozens of the UK’s leading insurers to find the right cover for you, giving you the peace of mind that you and your family will be protected if you are diagnosed with a serious illness.

Head online to compare Critical Illness cover quotes and to find the right cover for you.



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