Employee benefits provider Unum, has found cancer accounts for almost a third of income protection claims paid in the last year.
The most common cancers claimed for are breast and gastrointestinal cancers, which make up almost half of all claims.
After cancer, the most common conditions claimed for were mental health (19 per cent) musculoskeletal (9 per cent) and cardiovascular problems (8 per cent).
The data comes from Unum’s second annual claims statement, which provides information on all the income protection claims it paid to people who became too ill to work between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016.
For men, gastrointestinal is the most common cancer (35 per cent), while for women it is breast cancer (47 per cent).
The report found women are still under-protected.
They are more likely to go on long-term sick leave, but they are far less likely to be covered by income protection.
More than half of cancer claims (51 per cent) and 44 per cent of all claims were made by women.
However, men account for 64 per cent of those covered by group income protection.
The statement also demonstrates how older workers benefit from protection.
Less than a quarter of all workers protected by Unum are aged 50 plus but they make 50 per cent of all claims and 57 per cent of cancer claims.
However, 22 per cent of people claiming are aged less than 40, showing the importance of protecting the entire workforce.
John Letizia, head of public affairs at Unum, said: “We urge the government to look at what can be done to encourage employers to protect more of their staff.
“The statement also lays to rest the misconception that income protection is some kind of exclusive or executive benefit.
“Half of those making a claim earn under £30,000. Their employers recognise the business benefits of providing people with financial support when they are ill and practical measures to help them return to work when they are ready.”
Minesh Patel, director of EA Financial Solutions Ltd, says: “Income protection is under represented as people can’t always see the benefit of it but it is really important.
“There has traditionally been a gender bias towards men being seen as the priority when deciding who holds income protection, but it is essential now that women are covered.
“There has been increased numbers of high-powered women in the workplace and in many households they are becoming the higher earner so should be better covered.”