After several of his co-workers at the post office were diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, Bob Dempsey decided to buy insurance aimed at just that disease.

Dempsey’s mother had colon cancer and eventually died from it. He knew costs could pile up with chemo appointments, time away from work,and experimental treatments, exceeding the coverage of traditional health plans. The cancer insurance, offered through the Boston area postal union for $37 a month, seemed like the best precaution against huge, out-of-pocket expenses that can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.

“A lot of workers started to get nervous, we all signed up hoping to not collect,” said Dempsey, 55, now the vice president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 100, which represents post office employees around Boston. “You might as well. It’s a good program at a reasonable price.”

Cancer insurance is among the growing number of products, known as voluntary benefits, that are becoming increasingly popular among employers and employees to fill gaps in health insurance and other needs. Does your family have history of heart disease? There’s critical illness insurance to cover the cost of visits to out-of-network specialists or nonmedical expenses during recovery, such as child care. Have active kids? There are accident policies to cover the hefty copays and deductibles of emergency room visits for soccer, skiing, or cheerleading injuries.

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