Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that patients who favor such a "Western" diet were three-and-a-half times more likely to have a recurrence of colon cancer than those eating poultry, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Previous research has found that certain lifestyle choices and diets play an important role in the risk of developing cancer.
But few studies had measured the role of food in the recurrence of colon cancer and the risk of dying, the researchers say in a study published in the August 15 edition of the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA).
Doctor Jeffrey Meyerhardt, the study's lead author, and colleagues from the Boston, Massachusetts, institute looked at 1,009 patients suffering from stage III colon cancer, in which the tumor is present in the colon and lymph nodes.
The patients had been treated through surgery and chemotherapy when they took a survey about their eating habits. They were quizzed about their diet again six months later after completion of chemotherapy.
The researchers found two main types of diets: a "Western" diet rich in red meat, fatty products, refined grains and desserts, and a "prudent" model that includes a high intake of fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish.
The researchers followed up on the patients over a five-year period, finding a relapse in 324 people, while 223 died with a colon cancer recurrence. Another 28 died without documented cancer recurrence.
By comparison, the "prudent" diet was not significantly associated with cancer recurrence or death, the researchers said.
"Our results suggest that people treated for locally advanced colon cancer can actively improve their odds of survival by their dietary choices," Meyerhardt said.
Researchers are conducting more analyses to determine which nutrients or food groupings may be linked the closest to increased recurrence risks.