In this paper we study methods for estimating the absolute risk of an event c1 in a time interval [t1, t2], given that the individual is at risk at t1 and given the presence of competing risks. We discuss some advantages of absolute risk for measuring the prognosis of an individual patient and some difficulties of interpretation for comparing two treatment groups. We also discuss the importance of the concept of absolute risk in evaluating public health measures to prevent disease. Variance calculations permit one to gauge the relative importance of random and systematic errors in estimating absolute risk. Efficiency calculations were also performed to determine how much precision is lost in estimating absolute risk with a nonparametric approach or with a flexible piecewise exponential model rather than a simple exponential model, and other calculations indicate the extent of bias that arises with the simple exponential model when that model is invalid. Such calculations suggest that the more flexible models will be useful in practice. Simulations confirm that asymptotic methods yield reliable variance estimates and confidence interval coverages in samples of practical size.