GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New research from the Van Andel Institute shows the cause of melanoma is much different than scientists have long believed.

Researchers found that damage from sunlight creates a chemical conversion in DNA.

Dr. Gerd Pfeifer is a professor at VAI and authored the study. He says the research shows that sunlight is the trigger for the DNA mutation. In most cases, the source of the mutation isn’t clear, and finding this is a major step forward in terms of prevention methods.

The exposure to UVB light was short — just 15 minutes — showing the importance of safe sun practice. The mutations may not cause disease right away as sun exposure over time really adds up.

This discover is also a big step forward for investigating the origins of other types of cancer.