Circular RNAs (circRNAs) play an important role in cancer development and progression by regulating gene expression. The present study aimed to investigate the function of circRNA_100859 in colon cancer. circRNA expression profiles from a human circRNAs chip were analyzed. The effects of circRNA_100859 on cell proliferation and apoptosis were assessed in vitro and interactions between circRNA_100859 and its micro (mi)RNA and target genes were analyzed. The diagnostic and prognostic significance of circRNA_100859 was also investigated. It was identified that circRNA_100859 was overexpressed in colon cancer tissues and promoted cell proliferation and inhibited cell apoptosis. Additionally, bioinformatics and a dual-luciferase reporter assay confirmed that circRNA_100859 acted as a miR-217 sponge, and miR-217 directly targeted hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α. Rescue assays demonstrated that HIF-1α protein and mRNA expression levels and cell proliferation were regulated by the circRNA_100859/miR-217 axis (P<0.05). Furthermore, statistical analysis showed that the circRNA_100859-miR-217-HIF-1α axis was associated with Tumor-Node-Metastasis (TNM) stage, histological grade, and KRAS mutations, and also showed high diagnostic and prognostic value for patients with colon cancer (P<0.05). Therefore, it was concluded that circRNA_100859 functions as an oncogene in colon cancer by sponging the miR-217-HIF-1α pathway. In addition, the circRNA_100859-miR-217-HIF-1α axis may serve as a novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for patients with colon cancer.