Abstract A person can experience an effect on the occurrence of an outcome in a defined follow-up period without experiencing an effect on the risk of that outcome over the same period. Sufficient causes are sometimes used to deepen potential-outcome explanations of this phenomenon. In doing so, care should be taken to avoid tipping the balance between simplification and realism too far toward simplification. Death and other competing risks should not be assumed away. The time scale should be explicit, with specific times for the occurrence of specified component causes and for the completion of each sufficient cause. Component causes that affect risk should occur no later than the start of the risk period. Sufficient causes should be allowed to have component causes in common. When individuals experience all components of two or more sufficient causes, the outcome must be recurrent. In addition to effects on rates and risks, effects on incidence time itself should be considered.