To investigate the relation of dietary intakes of sucrose, meat, and fat, and anthropometric, lifestyle, hormonal, and reproductive factors to colon cancer incidence, data were analyzed from a prospective cohort study of 35,215 Iowa (United States) women, aged 55-69 years and without a history of cancer, who completed mailed dietary and other questionnaires in 1986. Through 1990, 212 incident cases of colon cancer were documented. Proportional hazards regression was used to adjust for age and other risk factors. Risk factors found to be associated significantly with colon cancer included: (i) sucrose-containing foods and beverages other than ice cream/milk; relative risks (RR) across the quintiles = 1.00, 1.73, 1.56, 1.54, and 2.00 (95% confidence intervals [CI] for quintiles two and five exclude 1.0); (ii) sucrose; RR across the quintiles = 1.00, 1.70, 1.81, 1.82, and 1.45 (CI for quintiles two through four exclude 1.0); (iii) height; RR = 1.23 for highest to lowest quintile (P for trend = 0.02); (iv) body mass index; RR = 1.41 for highest to lowest quintile (P for trend = 0.03); and (v) number of livebirths, RR = 1.59 for having had one to two livebirths and 1.80 for having had three or more livebirths compared with having had none (P for trend = 0.04). These data support hypotheses that sucrose intake or being tall or obese increases colon cancer risk; run contrary to the hypothesis that increased parity decreases risk; support previous findings of no association with demographic factors other than age, cigarette smoking, or use of oral contraceptives or estrogen replacement therapy; and raise questions regarding previous associations with meat, fat, protein, and physical activity.