Childhood cancer survivors with poor physical health and neurocognitive deficits are more likely to be unemployed or work part-time in adulthood, according to a new study.
Research has indicated that while more children with cancer are surviving, the treatments received can place them at risk for health complications later in life, This issue might hinder their ability to work.
“Our research points to factors such as physical health limitations that may be important to address to improve employment outcomes in this population,” said Anne Kirchhoff, PhD, MPH.
Using data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, Kirchhoff and colleagues with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle examined 5,836 adult childhood cancer survivors ages 25 and older to determine how their physical, mental and neurocognitive function affected their employment and occupational status.
Childhood cancer survivors in poor physical health as defined by standard questionnaires were approximately eight times more likely to be unemployed in adulthood compared with adult cancer survivors in good health, according to Kirchhoff, currently a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City.
“Although mental health and neurocognitive limitations were also linked to unemployment, it was surprising that physical deficits were such a major factor for childhood cancer survivors who were unable to work due to their poor health status,” she said.
Among employed survivors, those with neurocognitive limitations were less likely to hold professional positions and more likely to hold part-time or lower-skilled jobs, according to the researchers. Women with neurocognitive limitations, such as task-efficiency issues, were more likely to be working in lower-skilled occupations than men with the same neurocognitive deficits.
In addition, Kirchhoff and colleagues stressed that changes in employment status could affect survivors’ access to health insurance coverage, which is essential to managing any long-term complications from cancer.
“Childhood cancer survivors should be educated about the risks, be screened for any limitations, and learn strategies to manage those limitations in an effort to ensure they have more successful employment outcomes,” she said.
The study appears in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. To see the data, visit http://bit.ly/piJcEV.