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30-01-2011 | Oncology | Article

Childhood cancer survivors have poor job prospects


Free abstract

MedWire News: Adult survivors of childhood cancer are less likely to be employed in professional occupations than their siblings, US study findings indicate.

Survivors, particularly those with a history of central nervous system tumors and leukemia, were also more likely to have nonphysical jobs than their brothers and sisters.

During the past four decades, survival from childhood cancers has improved substantially, but cure is not without consequence, remark Anne Kirchhoff (Seattle, Washington) and colleagues.

"Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are associated with late health effects that can affect survivors' physical, psychosocial, and cognitive functioning," they add.

To investigate whether employed childhood cancer survivors (CCS) are under-represented in higher-skilled occupations, Kirchhoff and co-authors examined 4845 employed participants of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and 1727 of their siblings.

They classed the men and women (aged 25 years and older) in to three mutually exclusive occupational categories: managerial/professional, nonphysical service/blue collar, and physical service/blue collar.

The team found that employed CCS were 7% less likely to have managerial/professional occupations and 15% more likely to be employed in nonphysical jobs than their siblings.

Furthermore, survivors who were Black, diagnosed at a younger age (<5 years), or had high-dose cranial radiation (≥ 18 Gy) were a respective 33%, 16-32%, and 22-29% less likely to hold managerial/professional occupations than other survivors.

Female CCS were least likely to have full-time managerial/professional occupations, at 27% compared with 42% for male survivors and 41% and 50% for female and male siblings, respectively.

Finally, the researchers report that survivors' personal income was lower than siblings within each of the three occupational categories even after adjustment for the level of education they obtained.

Based on their findings, Kirchhoff and team recommend that long-term survivorship programs offer vocational assistance to CCS. "These programs may need to provide a broad array of services depending on a survivor's psychosocial or health status to maximize their occupational potential."

They conclude that "future studies are needed to determine why survivors make specific career decisions, to elucidate what survivors need to be successful in the workplace, and to assess the barriers survivors face in developing their careers."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Laura Dean

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