The associations between late effects of cancer treatment, work ability and job resources: a systematic review

Ingrid G. Boelhouwer*, Willemijn Vermeer, Tinka van Vuuren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this review is to evaluate associations between possible late effects of cancer treatment (i.e. physical complaints, fatigue, or cognitive complaints) and work ability among workers beyond 2 years after cancer diagnosis who returned to work. The role of job resources (social support, autonomy, leadership style, coaching, and organizational culture) is also evaluated.

METHODS: The search for studies was conducted in PsycINFO, Medline, Business Source Premier, ABI/Inform, CINAHL, Cochrane Library and Web of Science. A quality assessment was used to clarify the quality across studies.

RESULTS: The searches included 2303 records. Finally, 36 studies were included. Work ability seemed to decline shortly after cancer treatment and recover in the first 2 years after diagnosis, although it might still be lower than among healthy workers. No data were available on the course of work ability beyond the first 2 years. Late physical complaints, fatigue and cognitive complaints were negatively related with work ability across all relevant studies. Furthermore, social support and autonomy were associated with higher work ability, but no data were available on a possible buffering effect of these job resources on the relationship between late effects and work ability. As far as reported, most research was carried out among salaried workers.

CONCLUSION: It is unknown if late effects of cancer treatment diminish work ability beyond two years after being diagnosed with cancer. Therefore, more longitudinal research into the associations between possible late effects of cancer treatment and work ability needs to be carried out. Moreover, research is needed on the buffering effect of job resources, both for salaried and self-employed workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-189
Number of pages43
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number2
Early online date15 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Cancer treatment
  • Job resources
  • Late effects
  • Work ability
  • Work ability index

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