(HealthDay News) — Five years after a cancer diagnosis, employed cancer survivors have a higher sick leave rate compared with prior to their diagnosis, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

Steffen Torp, Ph.D., from the Vestfold University College in Tønsberg, Norway, and colleagues looked at data from 2,008 Norwegian long-term cancer survivors (LTCSs), aged 18 to 61 years old, to examine sick leave rates among this population. Survivors who had their first lifetime diagnosis of invasive cancer in 1999 and were alive in 2004 were matched with a cancer-free cohort (3,240 individuals) in 1998. One sick leave period was defined as >16 days per year.

The researchers found that 75 percent of the LTCSs took sick leave in the first 12 months after their diagnosis. Approximately 23 percent of male and 31 percent of female LTCSs took sick leave in the following four years, which was a slightly higher level compared to the year before diagnosis. Predictors of sick leave taken five years after diagnosis included being single with children, having low education, working in the health and social work sector, or having taken sick leave the year before diagnosis. LTCSs with rectal, lymphogenic, breast, or “other” types of cancer had significantly elevated sick leave rates five years after diagnosis, compared with controls. The variance in sick leave was explained by sociodemographic factors more than clinical factors.

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“This study shows that the sick leave rate among LTCSs was significantly higher compared to matched controls for all five years after diagnosis,” the authors write. “Sociodemographic factors were more important predictors of sick leave than cancer diagnoses and the extent of malignancy.”

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