The study is said to be the first of its kind to suggest a link between an increased risk of bowel cancer and dietary intakes of foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat.
Writing in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, the Scottish research analysed risk factors for the disease including various dietary factors, levels of physical activity and smoking – finding that the intake of carbonated soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, crisps and desserts had a significant positive association with the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the study group.
“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 industrialised countries are consuming more of these foods," commented Dr Evropi Theodoratou – who led the study.
"What we have found is very interesting and it merits further investigation using large population studies.”
The research team analysed data from the 2012 Scottish Colorectal Cancer Study – looking at risk factors including diet, levels of physical activity and smoking in almost 5,000 participants (2062 cancer patients and 2776 controls).
More than 170 food items - including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as high-energy snack foods like chocolates, nuts and crisps and fruit drinks – were included in the analysis.
Theodoratou and his team found several links with established risk factors for colorectal cancer – including family history of cancer, physical activity and smoking. However, the team also identified several novel risk factors including a high intake of high energy snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks.