This article describes new relationships between the age-specific incidence of, the prevalence of and mortality from a chronic disease. We express these relationships in terms of an ordinary differential equation and form the methodological basis for a novel approach to estimating incidences from age-specific prevalence data. We examine practical aspects of the relationships and a comparison with a known stochastic method in a simulation study. Finally, we apply the novel method to a data set of renal replacement therapy recorded from patients with chronic kidney failure in a region of Germany with approximately 310,000 inhabitants from 2002 to 2010. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.