BACKGROUND The impact of serum ferritin on prognosis in patients starting hemodialysis (HD) is not fully elucidated. METHODS A prospective cohort of 946 incident HD patients from 26 dialysis centers in Korea was selected for this study. Patients were divided into tertiles according to natural logarithm (Ln) ferritin concentrations. RESULTS During a median follow-up of 39 months, 88 (9.3%) patients died. Multivariate Cox proportional hazard analysis demonstrated that Ln ferritin was independently associated with an increase in cardiovascular mortality risk (hazard ratio (HR) 1.604, 95% CI 1.040-2.474, p = 0.033), infection-related mortality risk (HR 1.916, 95% CI 1.056-3.476, p = 0.032), and all-cause mortality risk (HR 1.547, 95% CI 1.156-2.069, p = 0.003). CONCLUSION Serum ferritin levels at the time of HD commencement were a significant independent risk factor for mortality regardless of systemic inflammation and nutritional status. Therefore, elevated serum ferritin levels could be an effective indicator for prognosis.