To compare mortality risk among cadaveric renal transplant recipients vs transplant candidates on dialysis in the cyclosporine era. Patient mortality risk was analyzed by treatment modality for a completed statewide patient population. All Michigan residents younger than age 65 years who started endstage renal disease (ESRD) therapy between January 1, 1984, and December 31, 1989, were included. Patients were followed up from ESRD onset (n = 5020), to wait-listing for renal transplant (n = 1569), to receiving a cadaveric first transplant (n = 799), and to December 31, 1989. Mortality rates. Using a time-dependent variable based on the waiting time from date of wait-listing to transplantation and adjusting for age, sex, race, and primary cause of ESRD, the relative risk (RR) of dying was increased early after transplantation and then decreased to a beneficial long-term effect, given survival to 365 days after transplantation (RR, 0.36; P .05). Overall, the estimated times from transplantation to equal mortality risk was 117 +/- 28 days and to equal cumulative mortality was 325 +/- 91 days. The overall mortality risk following renal transplantation was initially increased, but there was a long-term survival benefit compared with similar patients on dialysis. These analyses allow improved description of comparative mortality risks for dialysis and transplant patients and allow advising patients regarding comparative survival outcomes.