Scientists examined factors including diet, physical activity and smoking in Scottish colon cancer patients, the BBC reports. (Of course, Scots eat all sorts of weird crap. Sheep stomach stuffed with lamb entrails and oatmeal, anyone?)
They reaffirmed links with some established risk factors of colorectal cancer, such as family history, physical activity level and smoking. However, they also identified new risk factors, including sugary snacks.
The research, which used data from the Scottish Colorectal Cancer Study, is the first of its kind to find a positive link between colon (also called colorectal) cancer and a diet high in sugary and fatty foods.
Researchers at Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities examined the diets of 2,000 colon cancer patients and compared them to the diets of a similarly sized group of healthy people.
The researchers looked at consumption of more than 170 foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as chocolate, nuts, chips and soda.
The study builds on previous research on the link between colon cancer and diet.
Those studies identified two distinct eating patterns. One was high in fruits and vegetables and the other -- known as the Western diet -- was high in meat, fat and sugar.
The fruit-and-vegetable diet was found to be associated with a decreased colorectal cancer risk, while the Western diet was found to be associated with an increased risk.
"While the positive associations between a diet high in sugar and fat and colorectal cancer do not automatically imply 'cause and effect,' it is important to take on board what we've found -- especially as people in industrialized countries are consuming more of these foods," Dr Evropi Theodoratou of the University of Edinburgh's School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences told the BBC. He said larger population studies need to be done.
The study was published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is expected to cause about 50,830 deaths in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society.