Cancer survivors are more likely to fail in obtaining or retaining a job as compared to healthy individuals, according to an analysis of previous studies.
The trend is more common in survivors of breast and gastrointestinal cancers, adds the review report.
The researchers behind the analysis say that long-term medical and psychological effects of cancer or its treatment may cause impairments that effect social functioning, including the obtainment or retention of employment.
Almost half of all cancer survivors are younger than 65 years.
"Many cancer survivors want and are able to return to work after diagnosis and treatment. Relatively few studies have assessed the association of cancer survivorship with unemployment," wrote the authors.
They also say that there are several factors that may promote unemployment after the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, including job discrimination, difficulty combining treatment with full-time work and physical or mental limitations.
Dr. Angela G. E. M. de Boer, of the Coronel Institute of Occupational Health, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to determine the risk and factors associated with unemployment among adult cancer survivors compared with healthy control participants.
They then identified 26 articles reporting results from 36 studies meeting criteria for inclusion in the analysis. There were 16 studies from the United States, 15 from Europe and 5 from other countries.
The 36 studies included 177,969 participants, with 20,366 cancer survivors and 157,603 healthy control participants.
The researchers found that overall, cancer survivors were 1.37 times more likely to be unemployed than healthy control participants (33.8 percent vs. 15.2 percent).
Additional analysis by diagnosis showed an increased risk of unemployment for survivors of breast cancer (35.6 percent vs. 31.7 percent), gastrointestinal cancers (48.8 percent vs. 33.4 percent), and cancers of the female reproductive organs (49.1 percent vs. 38.3 percent).
However, higher risks of unemployment compared with healthy control participants were not shown among survivors of blood cancer, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
The researchers observed that in studies with a relatively low background unemployment rate, the risk for unemployment for cancer patients was lower compared with healthy control participants than in studies performed in countries with a relatively high background unemployment rate.
In seven studies, unemployment was caused because of disability, with analysis indicating a nearly 3 times higher risk for unemployment because of disability for cancer patients compared with control participants.
"The mechanism behind the higher unemployment rate among cancer survivors is likely to be a higher disability rate," wrote the authors.
Also, they said that many studies indicated that cancer survivors were more likely than healthy controls to report that the reasons for unemployment included physical limitations, cancer-related symptoms, or both.
"Furthermore, voluntary unemployment is not likely unless patients have other resources for income, which is not the case for most cancer survivors," said the authors.
The study has been published in the latest issue of JAMA.