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Long-Term Effects of Cancer Survivorship on the Employment of Older Workers

Objective. To estimate the long-term effects of cancer survivorship on the employment of older workers.

Data Sources. Primary data for 504 subjects who were 55–65 in 2002 and were working when diagnosed with cancer in 1997–1999, and secondary data for a comparison group of 3,903 similarly aged workers in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in 2002.

Study Design. Three employment outcomes (working, working full time, usual hours per week) were compared between the two groups. Both Probit/Tobit regressions and propensity score matching were used to adjust for potentially confounding differences between groups. Sociodemographic characteristics, baseline employment characteristics, and the presence of other health conditions were included as covariates.

Data Collection Methods. Four telephone interviews were conducted annually with cancer survivors identified from tumor registries at four large hospitals in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Many of the questions were taken from the HRS to facilitate comparisons.

Principal Findings. Cancer survivors of both genders worked an average of 3–5 hours less per week than HRS controls. For females, we found significant effects of survivorship on the probability of working, the probability of working full-time, and hours. For males, survivorship affected the probability of full-time employment and hours without significantly reducing the probability of working. For both genders, these effects were primarily attributable to new cancers. There were no significant effects on the employment of cancer-free survivors.

Conclusions. Survivors with recurrences or second primary tumors may particularly benefit from employment support services and workplace accommodation. Reassuringly, any long-term effects on the employment of cancer-free survivors are fairly small.

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