AIMS: The purpose of this study was to determine the risk for taking early retirement pension (ERP) in cancer survivors who were working at the time of diagnosis. METHODS: We conducted a nationwide and population based cohort study including 44,905 persons aged 30-60 years diagnosed with selected cancers in the period 1981-2000 and 211,562 randomly sampled cancer-free controls. Information on socioeconomic status, demography and physical and psychiatric comorbidity was obtained from Danish administrative registries. RESULTS: We analyzed the risk for ERP adjusted for known risk factors and found that cancer patients has an excess risk of ERP compared to cancer-free controls (RR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.55-1.65 and RR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.46-1.65 for women and men, respectively). The observed risk factors for taking ERP were late age, dissimilated disease, manual job, sickness leave the year before taking ERP, physical and psychological comorbidity, low education and low income. Three risk categories were identified (high, medium and low) by cancer site and we found that in the high risk category, people diagnosed with leukemia, prostate cancer or ovary cancer had a more than two-fold increased risk for ERP and the risk remained increased with up to 8 years of follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: We observed a significantly increased risk for taking early retirement up to 8 years after the cancer diagnosis and that the magnitude of the risk was dependent of cancer sites.