5 Breast cancer myths, debunked

Posted by Steve

Among diseases rife with myths and half-truths, breast cancer is one of the most misunderstood. The truth is that scientists still don’t know what causes breast cancer—only that certain factors, such as obesity or drinking too much alcohol, may increase risk. Read on to find out how to separate fact from fiction so you can stay safe.

Myth 1: Breast cancer is largely genetic.

Fact: Just 5 to 10% of cases are due to faulty breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Even in women who have a family history, many cases are due not to specific gene mutations but rather due to a combination of shared lifestyle factors and genetic susceptibilities according to the American Cancer Society.

Myth 2: Small-chested women have a lower risk.

Fact: All breast cancers develop in the cells that line the ducts or lobules—the parts that make milk and carry it to the nipple—and all women have the same number of these, regardless of breast size. What makes breasts bigger or smaller is generally the amount of fat and stroma (fibrous tissue), which research shows have little impact on cancer odds.

Myth 3: Breast cancer always appears as a lump.

Fact: Approximately 10% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no lumps, pain, or other indications of a problem in their breasts. And among lumps that are detected, 80 to 85% are benign. They’re often cysts or noncancerous tumours called fibro adenomas.

Myth 4: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.

Fact: Doctors say the evidence isn’t strong enough for them to recommend that women stop taking birth control pills to avoid breast cancer. Most studies found no association between pills and cancer whatsoever.

Myth 5: Young women don’t get breast cancer.

Fact: While it’s true the disease is more common in postmenopausal women, breast cancer can affect people of any age. In fact, women under 50 account for 25% of all breast cancer cases, and they tend to have higher mortality rates. This may be partly explained by the fact that younger women tend to have denser breasts, which makes it harder to spot lumps during mammograms.

That said, any lump or breast symptom from the list below should be checked by a doctor.

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels or looks
  •  A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • Breast pain or nipple tenderness
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A nipple or skin that turns inward into the breast
  • Feeling warm to the touch
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin of the breast, areola, or nipple, perhaps with ridges or pitting that resembles an orange peel
  • Nipple discharge

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Pinnacle Life launches simple accidental death ‘add-on’

Posted by Ed

PINNACLE LIFE today added a new ‘tick-box’ feature to its life insurance product; add 50% more accidental death cover for just 20% more premium.

In 2007, Pinnacle Life became the first life insurance company in New Zealand to offer fully underwritten life insurance products online, direct to consumers. The purpose of this online offering was to make life insurance more accessible to New Zealanders with relatively straightforward life insurance needs.  In 2010, Pinnacle’s online product was further enhanced with an option to add 25% extra cover for serious illness, by simply ticking a box during the online process.

In line with keeping products simple, Pinnacle has now added a second ‘tick-box’ enabling the applicant to add 50% more cover for accidental death for just 20% more in premiums.

Why buy extra cover for accidental death?

A typical reason why people seek extra cover for accidental death is because the financial impact of dying ‘suddenly’ can be more disruptive to their family, than if they had more time to put their affairs in order. Adding this cover affords the insured person’s family a ‘softer landing’ if they were to die suddenly in an accident.

The Pinnacle Life website has been designed with the ‘consumer’ in mind, meaning; you don’t need to be an insurance expert to buy a life insurance policy!  The website provides information together with policy documents written in ‘plain English’. Better still, the buying process is simple. The website can authorise a policy in as little as 10 minutes and policy documents are emailed to the applicant straight away.

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PINK RIBBON = Breast Cancer Awareness

Posted by Ed

October is Breast Cancer Action Month. This is all about making people aware that breast cancer is the #1 woman-killer in New Zealand and that women should undergo regular screening.

Some facts:

  • All women have a chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes.
  • Around 2,400 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year; that’s almost 7 per day!
  • As women grow older, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases…
Age Risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer
30s 1 in 204
40s 1 in 67
50s 1 in 35
60s 1 in 33
70s 1 in 38
  • The rate of breast cancer diagnosis is increasing in NZ… an 18% increase in the ten-year period 1995 and 2004…
  • However, the death rate from breast cancer is falling slightly… due (in part) to the efforts of making women more aware of the need for regular screening… which is exactly why we’re talking about it on our blog!
  • Still, around 650 women are likely to die this year from breast cancer… that’s 12 women per week! So no reason to be complacent.

In NZ many women tend not to have regular screening mammograms…. this means if there is breast cancer, it’s often well established by the time their doctor examines them and these women are more at risk of dying from breast cancer… obviously.

Finally, back in 2011 Pinnacle Life launched an insurance product called Cancer Cover.

The product pays out a lump sum up to $250,000 if you’re diagnosed with cancer… cash you can use to supplement your income, pay medical bills or simply take some time out.

To get a quote for Cancer Cover, click here

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Hello TradeMe – welcome to the world of life insurance

Posted by Steve

With much fanfare TradeMe have launched into the world of Life and Health Insurance distribution. Naturally, there has been chatter in the industry; Why TradeMe?  What will this do to the industry?

The aggregation business model is strong in other countries, iSelect in Australia, SuperMoneyMarket in the UK and Geico in the US all lead the way in this space. There is no NZ equivalent with the range of products and services these companies offer, but one would have to think Life Direct would be the best contender given its standing in the life and health space. From the side-line, one would think the Life Direct model had ample opportunity to flourish as an independent distributor. So, what has TradeMe got to gain by purchasing Life Direct?

Phil Macalister in GoodReturns questioned TradeMe boss Jon Macdonald, including asking why not implement a Pinnacle Life online model, in which the consumer can actually ‘buy’ on-line.  Would Pinnacle Life not have been a better fit for TradeMe consumers?

Unfortunately, Macdonald did not reveal much, other than to suggest the obvious strategy of growing market share by levering their vast website traffic to promote the offering, but making no comment on anticipated sales increase. Pinnacle Life in his view was not the right fit, TradeMe is not looking to purchase a manufacturer of life insurance products.

Pinnacle Life view TradeMe’s acquisition of Life Direct as positive for the industry. Yes, Life Direct will be a competitor, but they always have been. We can’t see what will change, other than Life Direct not needing to advertise as much – because they get a free ride on the back of TradeMe traffic and accessing TradeMe’s database. However, it may require renegotiating the commission they receive from the insurance companies that they represent, to feed the TradeMe distribution machine.

The good news for the industry is that TradeMe has elevated the category of ‘Life Insurance’ in the market for the entire industry and we believe Pinnacle Life will be a beneficiary. If it’s ok to source life insurance through TradeMe, then buying life insurance online direct from Pinnacle Life or a Cigna becomes an easier and maybe preferable option. Introducing a Life Insurance as a category on the TradeMe website tells consumer that ‘maybe you don’t need a broker after all to buy life insurance’.

The risk insurance market in NZ is worth about $1billion each year. Direct companies currently occupy only about 6% to 8% of the market. The banks enjoy approximately 28% of this market and the balance is served by independent financial advisers.

It’s difficult to fathom that TradeMe is targeting the ‘direct’ market segment given its relatively small size. And since the banks have a clear segment of their own, this leaves the segment traditionally served by financial advisers.

So, the question is probably not about how TradeMe will impact Pinnacle Life or other direct-to-market insurers; it is more about how TradeMe will impact the independent financial advisers.

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One joint life policy is not always better than two individual policies

Posted by Steve

You may automatically assume that buying a joint life insurance may be cheaper and better than buying two single life policies, BUT this is not necessarily the case.

For starters, generally taking out two separate life policies may be marginally more expensive, but you will get twice the pay-out if you both die during the insured term. With a joint single life policy there would only be a single pay-out.

Also, if you take out a joint life first death policy (often used for covering mortgages), the policy would pay-out then cease in the event of either of you dying during the term. This will leave the surviving partner having to take out a new life policy, which is often a lot harder and more expensive give the increased age of the surviving partner.

Finally, having each life separately underwritten and insured on its own merits, makes each party independent of the other. Hence the policy is not dependent on the survival of the marriage or partnership. With individual policies, all the potential arguments (like changing ownership or cancelling a joint policy) disappear.

So don’t just assume a first death joint policy is best for you.

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Safest way to travel in NZ …… public transport!

Posted by Steve

Safest way to travel in NZ …… public transport!

In promoting our complimentary accidental death cover offering, we came up with some interesting statistics about causes of death by travel accident. Who would have thought the safest way to travel in NZ is public transport!

The graphs below show a snapshot of the latest comprehensive statistics we could find.



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Snake oil or the real deal?

Posted by Steve
No doubt about the rise in popularity of homeopathic medicine and other alternative treatments…. but do they really work? Here is a representation of scientific evidence that attests to the effectiveness of some of the most popular supplement.
Do Health Supplements Really Work?

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Announcing our Special Events Benefits

Posted by Steve

Pinnacle Life recently announced special event benefits for its Life and Mortgage products. The benefit entitles policyholders to request increased levels of cover on the basis of changing life events, without requiring further medical evidence.

A ‘special event’ gives policyholders the opportunity to increase cover with no further questions asked regarding the insured person’s health. You qualify for a special event increase if:

  • the policyholders is aged 59 or less and has taken out or increased their mortgage within the past 3 months
  • the insured person has married (including a civil union), divorced or
  • the policyholder become a parent within the past 6 months.

Policyholders are entitled to 3 special event increases, with no more than 1 increase per year, provided that no single increase exceeds $250,000 and the cumulative total of all such increases doesn’t exceed 50% of the cover when the policy was initially acquired.

Where the special event relates to a mortgage, the increase in cover can’t exceed the amount by which your mortgage has increased. A special event increase is not available if the life insured is already loaded by more than 50% due to the insured person’s health.

In the coming weeks, Pinnacle Life will be incorporating the special events wording into the documentation of standing policies and will contact current policyholders who may qualify. The special events program clause is already available for new policies issued from the Pinnacle Life website.

Current policyholders can contact Pinnacle Life directly with any questions about how the special events program may affect their current policies

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Can marriage insurance protect a marriage?

Posted by Steve

On a recent visit to Beijing, China’s Sunshine Insurance Group showed me just how innovative they are in developing new products. Chinese life insurance industry may not yet be online, but in terms of product offerings, they claim to be the most innovative yet when it comes to insuring risk. To prove his point he described their recently introduced a new marriage insurance called “love you forever ” aimed at protecting the rights of wives in divorce.

According to the company, the insurer must be the husband and the wife will receive 60, 80 or 100% of the interest in the policy on divorce or on reaching its expiry term, whichever should come first. Fifty years after being insured, the wife will receive a payoff from the company to celebrate the golden wedding.

Using NZ currency equivalents, if the husband buys a $100,000 policy, on the 50th anniversary, his wife will get $800,000 from the account if she had a 100% interest in the policy. In the event of a divorce, the pay-out is substantially reduced. The incentive to maximise the pay-out is to stay married for the full term of the policy.

Sunshine Insurance Group said that women are still a vulnerable group in society as well as in marriage, so this was a way of protecting women’s rights. Some believe the idea is meant to reduce the chance of a husband having an extramarital affair.

However, other Insurance companies have expressed concerns about marriage insurance, pointing out that some couples might choose to divorce in order to qualify for a pay-out, and then re-marry, as there was nothing in the insurance contract preventing such abuse. Others criticise the stipulation that the wife benefits because sometimes wives are equally responsible for divorces.

Marriage insurance… innovation or just another attempt by Insurance Companies to incentivise its policy holders to retain their investment linked insurance policies?

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Worst time to travel by car…. around midnight Saturday!

Posted by Steve

The World Health Organisation recently released its Global Status on Road Safety Report 2013. You decide how NZ compares with the “key facts” provided by the WHO in the table.

World key facts NZ key facts
About 1.24 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. In 2011, there were 259 fatalities in NZ per year
Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people, aged 15–29 years. In the ending 2011, 99 fatalities were in this age group. That makes 38.2% of all fatalities were aged between 15  – 29.
Half of those dying on the world’s roads are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. We fair much the same, see graph “Proportion of deaths by road users type” below.
Without action, road traffic crashes are predicted to result in the deaths of around 1.9 million people annually by 2020 See chart “Fatal crashes by time of day” to learn why we should look to minimise our travel around midnight on Saturdays and early mornings Sunday.
Only 28 countries, representing 416 million people (7% of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors (speed, drink-driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints) Please to report that NZ is one of the 28 countries with vigorous road safety laws in place.

Proportion of road deaths by user type



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