Such negative impacts of a cancer diagnosis are particularly pronounced among working-age men, the study said.
“Our paper suggests that families where an adult — especially a working-age male — is diagnosed with cancer suffer short-term and long-term declines in their economic well-being,” said lead researcher Anna Zajacova from University of Wyoming.
After a cancer diagnosis, the probability of a patient being employed dropped by almost 10 percentage points, and hours worked declined by up to 200 hours, or about five weeks of full-time work, in the first year, the study found.
Zajacova and her colleagues analysed 1999-2009 data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative, prospective, population-based observational study with individual and family-level economic information.
The researchers used models to estimate the impact of cancer on employment, hours worked, individual income and total family income.
Annual labour market earnings dropped almost 40 percent within two years after a diagnosis, and they remained lower than before the diagnosis.
Total family income declined by 20 percent, although it recovered within four years after the diagnosis.
“We need to improve workplace and insurance safety nets so families can focus on dealing with the cancer treatment rather than deal with the financial and employment fallout,” Zajacova said.
The study was published online in the journal CANCER.