Review article: insurance risks for patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Prospective population-based studies have allowed a re-evaluation of the risks of insuring patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Life expectancy, the risk of cancer and working capacity are very much better than previously recognised and are normal for many patients. Three population-based studies in ulcerative colitis have shown a mortality similar to or slightly less than the general population except in the first year after diagnosis, whilst two have shown a slightly higher mortality (standardized mortality ratio, SMR = 1.4), except for those with proctitis. In Crohn's disease, two population-based studies have also shown an increased mortality (SMR = 1.4), which is similar to that of unskilled manual labourers (SMR = 1.43) from all causes of death. Three other studies have shown no increase in overall mortality, except in the first 5 years after diagnosis, in those with proximal small intestinal disease and in some patients needing multiple operations. Insurance risks should be evaluated on an individual basis, after details of the extent and pattern of disease have been obtained. Although the 'standard life' in insurance terms differs from that of the general population, because people who seek life assurance are self-selected from a more affluent section of society, many patients can be identified who have a particularly good prognosis. These include patients with ulcerative proctitis, those with left-sided colitis in extended remission (> 12 months), and patients more than 30 years old with localized ileal or ileocaecal Crohn's disease that has responded to treatment. From the published data, it is difficult to justify increasing the insurance premium in such patients.