Open Access Research article

Factors associated with work disability in employed cancer survivors at 24-month sick leave

Peter van Muijen123*, Saskia FA Duijts1, Karin Bonefaas-Groenewoud13, Allard J van der Beek13 and Johannes R Anema13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO + Institute/VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Dutch Social Security Agency, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Research Center for Insurance Medicine, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:236  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-236

Published: 2 April 2014



Identification of factors associated with work disability in cancer survivors on long term sick leave may support these survivors in choosing effective measures to facilitate vocational rehabilitation and return to work. Therefore, this study aims to disclose factors associated with work disability in cancer survivors at 24 months of sick leave.


A cross sectional study was conducted. The study population consisted of employed sick-listed cancer survivors, aged between 18 and 64 years. They received a questionnaire at 24-month sick leave, the maximum period of sick leave allowed by Dutch social security legislation. Data were linked with the outcome of work disability assessment, as performed by the Dutch social security agency. A hierarchical multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to identify factors associated with work disability.


Data of 351 valid cases were analysed. The multivariate analysis showed that, for cancer survivors at 24-month sick leave, Dutch nationality, higher education, receiving hormone therapy, metastatic disease, physical limitations and low self-reported work ability were associated with an increased risk for work disability.


This study identified factors associated with work disability of employed cancer survivors at 24 months of sick leave. The results of the current study may serve as a starting point to investigate the course of work disability beyond the maximum period of 24 months of sick leave. In order to enhance work participation of cancer survivors beyond this term, prospective data on work disability in the Netherlands are required.

Cancer; Survivors; Work disability; Return to work; Limitations; Sick leave