Under the auspices of an International Working Group, seven centers submitted diagnostic and follow-up information on 1545 patients with World Health Organization-defined polycythemia vera (PV). At diagnosis, median age was 61 years (51% females); thrombocytosis and venous thrombosis were more frequent in women and arterial thrombosis and abnormal karyotype in men. Considering patients from the center with the most mature follow-up information (n = 337 with 44% of patients followed to death), median survival (14.1 years) was significantly worse than that of the age- and sex-matched US population (P<0.001). In multivariable analysis, survival for the entire study cohort (n = 1545) was adversely affected by older age, leukocytosis, venous thrombosis and abnormal karyotype; a prognostic model that included the first three parameters delineated risk groups with median survivals of 10.9-27.8 years (hazard ratio (HR), 10.7; 95% confidence interval (CI): 7.7-15.0). Pruritus was identified as a favorable risk factor for survival. Cumulative hazard of leukemic transformation, with death as a competing risk, was 2.3% at 10 years and 5.5% at 15 years; risk factors included older age, abnormal karyotype and leukocytes ≥15 × 109/l. Leukemic transformation was associated with treatment exposure to pipobroman or P32/chlorambucil. We found no association between leukemic transformation and hydroxyurea or busulfan use.