Bankruptcy doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum. There is usually some type of personal crisis going on when folks enter into bankruptcy, something that tips them over the edge and makes bankruptcy unavoidable.

While many bankruptcies are caused by uncontrolled spending, divorce, job loss, or unexpected disasters, probably the biggest cause of bankruptcy is burdensome medical expenses, according to a Harvard University study. Another recent study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which examined data from a Washington state bankruptcy court records and a National Cancer Institute registry over a 14-year period, found that bankruptcy rates among those diagnosed with cancer were almost twice as high after one year than they were among the general population.

According to the study, 2.1 percent of individual cancer patients sought personal bankruptcy protection in the years following a cancer diagnosis. Those diagnosed with lung and thyroid cancers, and leukemia and lymphoma were most likely to file for bankruptcy one year, two years, or five years after their diagnosis. 7.7 percent of lung cancer patients eventually filed for bankruptcy, according to the study. Cancer patients least likely to file for bankruptcy were those over 65, who typically have Medicare coverage.

The recent study was not the only one to have looked at the connection between According to a Harvard study of personal bankruptcies filed in 2007, 62 percent of filings are caused by costly medical problems. Perhaps more interesting, though, is that 78 percent of filers in 2007 had medical insurance at the beginning of their illness, 60 percent being covered by private coverage.