Long-term work retention after treatment for cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Angela Gem de Boer, Steffen Torp, Adela Popa, Trine Horsboel, Vesna Zadnik, Yakir Rottenberg, Edit Bardi, Ute Bultmann, Linda Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Almost half of people diagnosed with cancer are working age. Survivors have increased risk of unemployment, but little is known about long-term work retention. This systematic review and meta-analysis assessed work retention and associated factors in long-term cancer survivors. Methods: We searched Medline/Pubmed, Embase, PsychINFO, and CINAHL for studies published 01/01/2000–08/01/2019 reporting work retention in adult cancer survivors ≥ 2 years post-diagnosis. Survivors had to be in paid work at diagnosis. Pooled prevalence of long-term work retention was estimated. Factors associated with work retention from multivariate analysis were synthesized. Results: Twenty-nine articles, reporting 21 studies/datasets including 14,207 cancer survivors, were eligible. Work retention was assessed 2–14 years post-diagnosis. Fourteen studies were cross-sectional, five were prospective, and two contained both cross-sectional and prospective elements. No studies were scored as high quality. The pooled estimate of prevalence of long-term work retention in cancer survivors working at diagnosis was 0.73 (95%CI 0.69–0.77). The proportion working at 2–2.9 years was 0.72; at 3–3.9 years 0.80; at 4–4.9 years 0.75; at 5–5.9 years 0.74; and 6+ years 0.65. Pooled estimates did not differ by cancer site, geographical area, or study design. Seven studies assessed prognostic factors for work retention: older age, receiving chemotherapy, negative health outcomes, and lack of work adjustments were associated with not working. Conclusion: Almost three-quarters of long-term cancer survivors working at diagnosis retain work. Implications for Cancer Survivors: These findings are pertinent for guidelines on cancer survivorship care. Professionals could focus support on survivors most likely to have poor long-term work outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-150
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Cancer
  • Employment
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prospective studies
  • Return-to-work
  • Work ability
  • Work retention

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