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Work disability among cancer patients


  • Greenwald, Howard P.
  • Dirks, Susan J.
  • Borgatta, Edgar F.
  • McCorkle, Ruth
  • Nevitt, Michael C.
  • Yelin, Edward H.


To identify factors affecting the ability of persons with recent cancer diagnoses to remain in the labor force and retain premorbid levels of work performance, the investigators analyzed data on 247 individuals with lung, pancreatic, prostatic, or cervical cancer. Subjects were selected from a population-based tumor registry. According to Pearson correlations, ordinary least squares multiple regression, and logistic analysis, physical factors related to disease were the strongest predictors of work disability, defined as either leaving the labor force or functioning less fully at work than before becoming ill. The strongest predictors of work disability were physical dysfunction measured by the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP) and disease stage. Social background factors such as age, sex, income, and education were not statistically significant predictors. Two job characteristics, (1) physical demands of work and (2) discretion over hours worked and how much work would be done, predicted work disability, the latter appearing to help prevent this condition. Strictly disease-related factors appear more important here in predicting work disability than in studies of other diseases. Still, it appears that increasing flexibility of working hours and the pace of work could help some individuals with cancer histories remain in the labor force. Unwillingness of employers to facilitate such accommodation where technically feasible may constitute a form of discrimination against the cancer patient.

Suggested Citation

  • Greenwald, Howard P. & Dirks, Susan J. & Borgatta, Edgar F. & McCorkle, Ruth & Nevitt, Michael C. & Yelin, Edward H., 1989. "Work disability among cancer patients," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 1253-1259, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:29:y:1989:i:11:p:1253-1259

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    Cited by:

    1. Bradley, Cathy J. & Neumark, David & Bednarek, Heather L. & Schenk, Maryjean, 2005. "Short-term effects of breast cancer on labor market attachment: results from a longitudinal study," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 137-160, January.
    2. Emmanuel Duguet & Christine Le Clainche, 2016. "Une évaluation de l’impact de l’aménagement des conditions de travail sur la reprise du travail après un cancer," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 67(1), pages 49-80.
    3. Paraponaris, Alain & Teyssier, Luis Sagaon & Ventelou, Bruno, 2010. "Job tenure and self-reported workplace discrimination for cancer survivors 2 years after diagnosis: Does employment legislation matter?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 98(2-3), pages 144-155, December.
    4. Bradley, Cathy J. & Bednarek, Heather L. & Neumark, David, 2002. "Breast cancer survival, work, and earnings," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 757-779, September.


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