Norwegian researchers found that longterm cancer survivors take sick leave more frequently than their colleagues, according to a study published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.1 The findings indicate that survivors who are able to work 5 years after their diagnosis still struggle at work. Experts note that it is important for survivors to return to work to maintain their self-respect, identity, and standard of living, and most of them do so.

Steffen Torp, PhD, associate professor at Vestfold University College in Norway, and colleagues observed the sick leave patterns of cancer survivors for 5 consecutive years after their diagnosis. They also examined factors that might predict the amount of sick leave taken in the fifth year, such as education, family status, annual income, occupation, and cancer type and severity.

The data were from Norwegian population-based registries and the Cancer Registry of Norway for 2008 adults diagnosed with invasive cancer. The control group was comprised of 3240 matched, healthy participants. Dr. Torp and his team found that approximately 75% of long-term cancer survivors took sick leave within the first 12 months after their diagnosis. During the next 4 years, 23% of men and 31% of women survivors took sick leave compared with approximately 18% of men and 27% of women in the control group.

Researchers also discovered that sociodemographic factors were better predictors of taking sick leave than were the type and severity of the cancer. Among the key predicting factors for sick leave use were being single with children, having a low level of education, working in the health and social care sector, or having taken sick leave the year before diagnosis.


  • 1
    Torp, S, Nielsen, RA, Gudbergsson, SB, Fossa, SD, Dahl, AA. Sick leave patterns among 5-year cancer survivors: a registry-based retrospective cohort study [published online ahead of print June 16, 2012]. J Cancer Surviv. doi:10.1007/s11764-012-0228-8.