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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2019

Labor market situation after an episode of sickness absence due to malignant neoplasia. Evidence from a Spanish cohort

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2019
Ana Lear-Claveras, Monica Ubalde-Lopez, Laura Serra Saurina



Due to the progress in screening and cancer treatments, survivor’s prognosis has improved enabling a more likely return to work. However, return to work after a cancer diagnosis may be complex because of an unbalanced health status and work demands relationship that may push them out of the labor market. The aim of this study is to assess the risk of dropping out of the labor market due to unemployment, partial retirement, and permanent disability during the year following an episode due to a malignant neoplasm compared to other non-malignant pathologies.


Cohort study of 9699 workers affiliated with the Social Security System in Catalonia, who had a sickness absence episode between 2012 and 2013 due to malignant neoplasm, mental, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular diseases and injuries. Competing risk regression models were applied to assess the risk of dropping out of the labor market, by calculating subhazard ratios (SHR) in both sexes. Models were adjusted for age, occupational category, type of contract, economic activity, annual median salary and duration of the SA episode as potential confounders.


Sickness absence due to malignant neoplasia represented 1.7% out of the 9699 episodes included between 2012 and 2013. Although, 80% of individuals continued working in the year following an episode due to malignant neoplasm, women showed a trend towards exiting the labor market because of partial retirement [SHR = 8.4(1.5–45.5)] and permanent disability [SHR = 5.8(1.5–22.9)] compared to non-malignant pathologies. There were no significant differences for unemployment either in women [SHR = 0.4(0.2–0.9)] and in men [SHR = 0.2(0.1–0.6)].


Although return to work is a common pathway among cancer survivors, partial retirement and permanent disability seem to be potential pathways to exit the labor market among women.
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