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PURPOSE: Return to work (RTW) is beneficial for cancer survivors, employers and society. However, little is known about predictors of RTW in the military environment. METHODS: A cohort of 194 Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel aged 18-58 who survived primary cancer treatment between 2001 and 2011 were followed up for 18 months. Information was obtained from occupational health and primary care records. Personal, occupational and clinical predictors of RTW were identified by Cox proportional hazards regression. RESULTS: The median sickness absence before RTW was 107 days. Six months after diagnosis 54 % of participants had RTW, and reached 80 % by 12 months. Time taken to RTW was predicted by age at diagnosis, rank, trade group, pre-diagnosis sickness absence, site of cancer, treatment modality, and prognosis. RTW at 18 months were predicted by higher rank (HR = 2.31; 95 % CI 1.46-3.65), and having melanoma (9.75; 4.97-19.13). Those receiving chemotherapy were significantly less likely to have RTW compared to other treatment modalities (0.18; 0.10-0.32). CONCLUSIONS: Rank, cancer diagnostic group, and treatment modality are the most important predictors of RTW in cancer survivors in the RAF. These predictors can be used to inform rehabilitation programmes and decisions on RTW.

Original publication




Journal article


J Occup Rehabil

Publication Date





153 - 159


Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Military Personnel, Neoplasms, Return to Work, Survivors, United Kingdom, Young Adult